Controversy 'comical', captain says

By STEVE BUFFERY, QMI Agency


Canada's Charline Labonte poses with a huge bottle of beer on her head after the women's hockey gold-medal game at GM Place in Vancouver Thursday, Feb. 25, 2010. (ANDRE FORGET/QMI AGENCY)


VANCOUVER — Team Canada captain Hayley Wickenheiser says the reaction to her team’s controversial on-ice celebration is “comical” and suggested it’s been blown out of proportion.

And she wasn’t the only one with that opinion.

Wickenheiser, a veteran of four Winter Olympics, added Friday that if the men’s team had been caught celebrating a gold medal with cigars, champagne and beer, it wouldn’t have been a big deal.

“I don’t brush it off, the underage thing and being on the ice (with alcohol) — those things could have maybe been done different,” she said. “But at the same time, it’s celebrating, it’s hockey, it’s a tradition we do.

“When we see a Stanley Cup winner, you see spraying champagne all over the dressing room, you see 18-year-old kids there and nobody says a thing. (The criticism) is almost comical to me.”

The main concern for officials, however, was that the team’s underage star, 18-year-old Marie-Philip Poulin, was spotted with alcohol. Poulin scored both goals in Canada’s 2-0 win over the U.S. in Thursday’s gold-medal game.

Bob Nicholson, president and CEO of Hockey Canada, said Friday he spoke to Poulin to ease her fears that the on-ice drinking would overshadow the team’s accomplishment.

“Poulin was worried and I told her, ‘We’d be in a lot worse shape if you didn’t score the two goals. The country would be in mourning.’ I said, ‘We’ll get through this and you’ll remember your two goals in your victory for the rest of your life.’”

Hockey Canada apologized for the team’s impromptu party on the GM Place ice after the game, but Nicholson added that the players thought the fans had long departed the arena.

The IOC said Friday it was drafting a letter in response to the celebration, but spokesman Mark Adams also stressed that the incident wasn’t a huge deal, hinting there wouldn’t be any major sanctions.

For her part, Poulin expressed remorse for being caught with alcohol.

“I’m really sorry for what happened,” she said. “I think we just wanted to enjoy the moment and that’s just what happened. It won’t happen again. We’ve learned from it. We’re just going to enjoy that medal right now.”

steve.buffery@sunmedia.ca

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