Olympians return to squad to resume quest for Cup

TAMPA, Fla. - Looking ragged and weary from a day jam-packed with two long flights from Vancouver, Chris Pronger, Mike Richards and Kimmo Timonen rejoined their Flyers teammates yesterday afternoon to resume the NHL season.

Fresh off Canada's thrilling, 3-2 overtime victory over the United States to clinch a gold medal in Vancouver, Pronger and Richards undoubtedly slept easy last night. Timonen helped Finland to a bronze medal on Saturday night. During the Olympics, the Canadian players competed in seven games and Timonen played in six.

As tired as they were, Richards and Pronger couldn't help but smile when talking about their experience.

"It was crazy," said Richards, who assisted on Canada's first goal in the gold-medal game. "I have never heard a building as loud as it was before that final game. It was going nuts in there. It was a pretty unique experience, and to do it at home, it was a little more tense than I think a lot of people wanted it to be. It was insane."

Pronger, skating in the Olympics for the fourth time, had been there before. While he won the gold medal in 2002 at Salt Lake City, Pronger said this victory hadn't yet sunk in. Pronger is one of only 23 hockey players in the Triple Gold Club - having won a Stanley Cup, Olympic gold medal and World Championship.

"It normally takes a summertime [to sink in]," Pronger said. "I enjoyed it a little [on Sunday night], but I was up at 4:30 this morning to catch a flight. The first time is always special, but with this one being in Canada and in front of family, friends and the whole country, it's certainly one to remember."

Now that the players are back from the Olympics, they hope to help the Flyers return to their quest for the gold-medal equivalent: the Stanley Cup.

"When you're able to achieve something like that, you hope that some of the things you learned over those 2 weeks, you're able to bring back to your team and use," Pronger said. "I guess we'll find out." *