Wayne steals show

TURIN -- Beckie Scott and Sara Renner teamed up to win a remarkable silver medal yesterday morning at Pragelato Pran with the kind of storybook finish they make movies about.

This is the Winter Olympics at its absolute best.

But only six North American journalists were on hand to document the adventure.

In the early evening on the very same day, Wayne Gretzky, looking nothing but uncomfortable as he sat behind a microphone and said little, over and over again.

"This isn't about me," he said rather naively.

For it not being about him, more than 400 reporters, 50 photographers and 13 network camera crews and the president of the Canadian Olympic Committee -- like, why was he there? -- filled a press conference room with fewer than 300 seats at Palasport Olimpico, not to watch a sporting event but to hear Gretzky speak.

This is the Winter Olympics at is absolute worst.

This is what Gretzky's appearance here has done to the Games, whether he likes it or not, whether we like it or not, whether the National Hockey League approves of his arrival, whether he's supported by his players.

He is here and we care, even if he has nothing to say, even if he can't or won't move his own story forward.

Because he is Gretzky, because we always care.

But he is playing a dangerous Mark McGwire-type game now -- "I only want to talk about hockey." Only Gretzky is doing it with an admiring public rabidly behind him.

"I have done nothing wrong," he said.

But he won't take questions on the subject, hoping the less he says, the more likely it is to go away.

"I know he's as disappointed as he could possibly be," said Pat Quinn, the Team Canada coach, talking about the attention, knowing the last thing Gretzky would ever want to be is a distraction to those in other sports, and more so to his own team.

He doesn't want to steal the thunder from Sara Renner and Beckie Scott, but he is who he is, and hockey is what it is, and that's as good a reason the combination of NHL players and the Olympic Games remain something worth revisiting.

And yet questions linger, whether asked, whether answered, whether reported by dubious sources or leaked by police with professional agendas.

The questions linger, even after an overly polite and terribly dull interrogation yesterday on the day the Canadian men's hockey team arrived at the Olympics.

Gretzky may be admired and adored and respected and beloved, but still, you have to wonder here.

You have to wonder what Gretzky knew about the gambling that was going on around him and when he knew it. You have to wonder that if his wife, Janet, was allegedly betting with his assistant coach Rick Tocchet, that he had to be aware of that relationship, and if he wasn't, what does that say?

You have to wonder if his general manager and business manager, Mike Barnett, was betting with Tocchet, how didn't he know?

And certainly if he was aware of Tocchet's activity, why is it that he didn't remove Tocchet from the bench and the employment of the Phoenix Coyotes?

To accept his "I am not involved" answer is to accept that he is either not aware of his own surroundings or quite foolish. And why would we ever assume that?

All this is not an Olympic matter but a question NHL executives should be both asking and actively pursuing.

Gretzky may not be guilty of anything more than poor judgment, but when a policeman shows up at your door asking questions about gambling, it ain't the office pool or your fantasy football team he's concerned about.

"It's in the league's hands," said Quinn, who supported Gretzky but left a little room between sentences. "I can't add anything to do it. I don't know what happened."

We don't know what happened.

Even U.S. captain Chris Chelios, who comments on basically everything, kept this at arm's length: "I'm not commenting on anything like this."

And wrestling to bring the matter back to hockey, Gretzky said: "If we don't win a gold medal, I'll get blamed."

In the larger picture, Olympics aside, that still may be the least of his concerns.