Putting a great lid on it

TURIN -- Wayne Gretzky looked tired and weary of the circus that has followed him across the ocean.

Team Canada's executive director didn't look anything like someone ready to take on what's going to be a difficult two-week grind to win a gold medal.

But as Gretzky landed here yesterday, he remained adamant in saying he's had no involvement in the gambling scandal swirling around Phoenix assistant Rick Tocchet. While his players were out in the hallway answering queries from reporters about the scandal, Gretzky was in a room insisting it won't be a distraction.

"At the Olympic Games, (players are) pretty much insulated," he said. "It's not like when you cover the NHL and the reporters are in the dressing room and they are around the team all the time. There's no distraction."

A few reporters met Gretzky at the airport, but he didn't speak. Mostly it was cameras wanting visual shots for the 6 p.m. news. Gretzky, who has been carved in the American media, maintained this will be the only time he will discuss the subject while at the Games.

"It doesn't involve me. I'm not involved," said Gretzky. "The concern is to worry about playing hockey. The concern is for these athletes. All these athletes work their rear ends off to get to the Olympic Games. This is the last time I'm going to talk about it.."

THE MEDAL PLAZA: Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson was hurting when he arrived in Turin. Just before Alfredsson boarded the plane for the Olympics, he had a wisdom tooth removed and his face was swollen. That was part of the reason he left the ice early following the Swedes' first practice Monday ... There's a familiar face behind the Swiss bench: Former 67's coach and all-star Peter Lee, who is GM of Berlin in the German Elite League, is working as an assistant to coach Ralph Kruger. Lee, who had a legendary career in Germany as a player, is a former teammate of Kruger's and has been with the program for two years ... Just walked by an elevator at the Palasport Olympico. There's an alarm going off and a guy is stuck in there just screaming his brains out. It sure sounded liked Philadelphia Inquirer hockey writer Tim Panaccio, but thankfully he's sitting in the media room next to me.

ON THE PODIUM: Italy G Jason Muzatti, who had a short NHL career, isn't worried about the fact the Italian women were waxed by Canada 16-0 in their opener. He's not expecting a repeat in today's Canada-Italy men's matchup. "We certainly didn't like seeing it happen, but it doesn't matter that they got whacked," said Muzatti ... Expect to see Alfredsson play on a line with Leafs captain Mats Sundin and Lightning winger Frederik Modin today against Kazakhstan ... There was talk in the athletes' village that Senators C Jason Spezza wasn't going to make the trip with Team Canada because he's a little banged up. But Spezza was on the flight and on the ice when Canada held its first practice at the Palasport last night ... Ottawa G Dominik Hasek will start for the Czech squad today against Germany, but G Tomas Vokoun is also expected to see action. "The Czechs are going to give Canada a run for their money," said TSN analyst Pierre McGuire, who is working for NBC in Turin. "They've got a good team. I believe guys like Tomas Kaberle and Pavel Kubina are going to help carry that team on the blue line. I don't think people have given those guys enough credit."