It was an intense, pressure-filled quest for gold, silver or bronze which first began just a few weeks ago.
And only one of the four Winnipeg Jets’ Olympians — Olli Jokinen of Finland — is returning home with a precious medal.
Jokinen and his Finnish teammates spanked Blake Wheeler and the United States 5-0 in Saturday’s bronze-medal game around the same time the Jets — including Ondrej Pavelec and Michael Frolik of the Czech Republic, who had just returned from Sochi — were practising at MTS Iceplex.
"We wanted to win the bronze. We wanted to have something to be proud of," Jokinen told reporters in Sochi. "Everybody played well. It was a total team effort."
Jokinen, who has played in four Olympics, picked up his third medal on Saturday along with the bronze he won in Vancouver in 2010 and silver in Turin in 2006. Asked if he was retiring from the national team, the 35-year-old wouldn’t commit one way or another.
"I still plan to keep playing," he said. "After last Olympics I thought that was it, but I think I can still play four or five more years, so you never know."
Jokinen was solid in Russia, centering the country’s No. 1 line along with Jussi Jokinen and Tuomo Ruutu, and scored two goals while adding two assists.
After the bronze-medal game most of the attention — and rightfully so — was centered on the legendary Teemu Selanne, who scored twice in his last Olympic appearance.
"It’s a great feeling, you know," Jokinen said. "He’s done so much for Finnish hockey and we were able to win one for him, same with (Kimmo) Timonen and (Sami) Salo. Those three guys have been doing so much for this country in international play and it’s pretty amazing.
"You’ve got a 43-year-old guy who scores two goals, the way he moves, who knows, maybe he’ll be back in four years when he’s 47. You never know."
Jokinen thought immediately of Selanne after the Finnish win, seeking out a memento to give to his fellow teammate.
"I took the puck after the game and gave it to him and I think it’s in his pants right now," said Jokinen. "At least he has the medal and the puck for a memory.
"He spoke before the game. He was saying, for the younger guys this is a once in a lifetime chance to win the medal because there are no guarantees who is going to be here in four years and you don’t want to throw these chances away. There are not many hockey players who are going to be able to say they have an Olympic medal in their office.
"It was a message for all of us that we know how tough it is to lose the game yesterday and we knew how tough for the U.S. to lose that game," added Jokinen. "Teemu wanted to make sure that the coaches, all the guys, knew that this was a once in a lifetime chance to win something.
"Yeah, we finished third place, but we were able to beat Russia and we were able to beat the U.S. We won this bronze medal. We lost two games, two close games against the two teams that are in the final. Those countries deserve to be there, but after that we had the third place and we’re very happy."
—with files from Gary Lawless.
A bronze for Olli
A few of the Jets weigh in on Olli Jokinen helping Finland capture a bronze medal Saturday in a 5-0 win over the Americans:
"It’s awesome, it’s great. It’s something special for him and for the team. It sucks for (Blake Wheeler), but for the whole tournament Finland was very structured and they knew what they were doing on the ice. Their defence was very good. They just proved it." — Michael Frolik.
"I’m wondering what that medal means. In a country that size I would think they would be pretty proud of that, and they should be proud of that. At the same time, everybody over there is really competitive and they want to win the gold. So, I’m going to wait. I don’t know what it means to him. That’s going to be one of the first things I’m going to ask him when he gets back. That’s quite an accomplishment. To medal at the Olympics in any sport is a great thing.
"He played really well and he played defensively really well. Actually, he was playing on a line with two other guys I’ve coached in (Jussi) Jokinen and (Tuomo) Ruuttuu and I thought that was a pretty good line that had some success." — Paul Maurice.
"It’s great. I watched a few of the Finland games and he’s been good. He’s been good for us and he was good for them. I feel good for him. He said it’s his last one, so good for him." — Ondrej Pavelec.