TURIN, Italy -- First Swedish coach Bengt-Ake Gustafsson disgraced himself.
Then he disgraced the game.
Following through on shocking pre-game suggestions his team might tank its final round- robin game against Slovakia to ensure a favourable quarterfinal matchup, the once-proud Tre Kroner became the Don't Try Kroner.
Electing to start backup goalie Mikael Tellqvist for the first time all tourney, Gustafsson's directive to conserve energy was clear as the Swedes were outshot 31-17 in a 3-0 loss that got the result he wanted -- a matchup with Switzerland today.
And while a meeting between International Ice Hockey Federation officials found no evidence to prove the Swedes rolled over, a lengthy five-on-three powerplay for Sweden midway through the second made it all too clear.
Despite a two-man advantage for 1:39 with the score 1-0, the Swedes' top unit mocked the game with an endless succession of passes and failed to register a single shot on goal.
While the players denied their coach's comments had any impact on the outcome, Gustafsson refused after the game to back down after admitting he was "debating" a tank job. He was basically being honest.
"I got a question from the media asking, 'Would you rather meet the Swiss, Canada or the Czechs?' and I said, 'It's like choosing between plague and cholera,' " said Gustafsson, who earlier in the day said the ideal result would be a scoreless tie, ensuring a Swiss matchup.
"We never made a choice to have things like this. We try to be fair and professional in our decisions off the ice to work hard but, at the same time, not waste our energy."
Fact is, teams have tanked at international tourneys for years to avoid certain opponents. It's just never admitted publicly, which is why Gustafsson looks so foolish.
What he's done is tarnish the integrity of the game during the biggest hockey tourney on the planet.
"There are a potential 3.2 billion people watching from 200 countries -- this is the biggest stage hockey has," said IIHF spokesman Szymon Szemberg, pointing out president Rene Fasel's pre-game concerns.
"We don't want game previews to be about tanked games."
Still, the IIHF chose to do nothing, as Szemberg said the official monitoring the game "didn't see anything that pointed towards a tainted game or foul play. It's a non-issue."
We beg to differ.
"We're professional athletes and everybody gives 110 percent when they go out to play and practice every time," said Swedish captain Mats Sundin.
"That's what we did tonight -- we just didn't have a very good hockey game. There's been no meetings. There hasn't been any talk of anything else in our dressing room."
Nik Lidstrom suggested his coach was merely joking.
The Slovaks refused comment on the hilarity.
"Maybe I said a little too much -- the guys had a tough time to really give 100 percent focus because of the (controversy)," said Gustafsson.
"I think they did a fair effort out there. I said, of course, the Swiss team is on paper the weakest team. I stand behind that -- that's a fact. I know maybe I'll have to eat it up tomorrow because we're going to meet a Swiss team that will work its (butt) off."