Tuesday, February 12, 2002
Blame must be shared for Slovakia's collapse
By BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Team Sun
So the question is this: Who is to blame for Slovakia's collapse in the Olympic men's hockey tournament?
While they were expected to advance past the preliminary round -- and possibly beyond -- the Slovaks have been relegated to the role of also-rans as they prepare to play their final game tonight against Austria at the E Center.
Does the blame for this development belong to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman for not allowing players to be released in time for the tournament, or does it rest squarely on the shoulders of Slovakia GM Peter Stastny for trying to parachute in players.
How about both?
"Our problem from the very beginning has been that we have a limited number of players that can be used for the whole tournament. The rules of the tournament really are not very fair," said Slovakia coach Jan Filc.
While that's true, Slovakia may have authored its own demise by trying to move NHL players in and out of the lineup, bringing them in for a game at a time instead of going for continuity.
Germany and Latvia are doing fine without big-name players.
There is no question Slovakia is one of the most powerful hockey nations, with 21 players from the NHL who would be eligible to play had the club made it to the next round. But the reality is they'll have another long wait until the next Olympics.
Perhaps Stastny should have settled on a lineup and gone with it. He and Filc also decided to ask Ottawa's Zdeno Chara and Phoenix' Ladislav Nagy and Radislav Suchy to step aside for their country.
"I don't know why that decision was made," said Marian Hossa when asked about Chara's absence. "You'd have to ask the coach."
The Slovakian staff surely has a lot of soul-searching to do now.
THE MEDAL PLAZA: The "Drunken Swede" story has taken on a life of its own overseas. A reporter called Team Sun colleague Eric Francis to interview him about it and there's talk the official could be released from his job. Geez, all the guy did was have an extra drink or two and fall flat on his face in a public pace. Is there anything wrong with that? ... Team Canada GM Wayne Gretzky was at the Main Press Center Sunday to do a host of television interviews and then he took off for a short ski vacation with his family near Salt Lake. Gretzky will be back in the city tomorrow night in time for Canada's first practice, which will likely include only five players ... Something must be wrong with the spelling in North America. Carolina's Sandis Ozolinsh had his name spelled 'Ozolins' on the back of his Latvia jersey during his stop here Sunday ... An RDS cameraman was asked to drop his pants at security at the E Center recently. That's taking it to an extreme ... An Australian visitor was asking passersby if they had any marijuana to sell. "We buy, cheap," he said. Anything goes at the Olympics.
AROUND THE RINGS: From the brush with fame files: The Foo Fighters were sitting nearby at the E Center during the Slovakia-Latvia game Sunday ... Haven't gotten a chance to go pin trading yet, but that's in the plans in the next couple of days. Gave a Canadian pin to the manager of an establishment I've been frequenting and it's the best move I ever made. Before I knew it, the guy was out in the middle of the street trying to get me a cab ... Swiss committee secretary general Martin Rutishauser skipped watching skiing Sunday so he could see the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. "Skiing, I can see in Switzerland anytime," said Rutishauser ... According to AT&T Wireless, there were more than 165,000 cellphone calls made from the opening ceremony on Friday night. People had been told to leave their cellphones at home, but they decided not to listen ... Any truth to the rumour former Lightning GM Rick Dudley is going to end up back in Ottawa as a replacement for GM Marshall Johnston ... A reporter thrown out of his hotel after locking himself out of his room naked is now paying $350 US per night for a place near the E Center. Needless to say, his bosses are not happy.
2002 Games Men's Hockey Coverage