Thursday, February 23, 2006

Team America meltdown

The headline from Associated Press puts the American Olympic hockey experience in the right perspective "US hockey passes blame better than the puck". MSNBC recounts the sad ending to the Americans visit to the Torino Games.

With a 4-3 loss to Finland and an early exit from the Olympic tournament the USA hockey squad has turned to finger pointing to finish off their duty to country and Gary Bettman. Mike Modano led the chorus as the American star benched for the third period by head coach Peter Laviolette, let loose on the organizers of the American team, calling for massive changes in the way they do things.

Modano, who found himself in the doghouse after a less than stellar tournament apparently seethed on the bench and then let his emotions boil over after the final whistle blew and the Finns had wished them a safe journey home.

When Modano was finished with his blasts, US GM Don Waddell took exception to his perception of the state of the American organization and the need for change. Both Waddell and coach Laviolette called out Modano on his comments, impressing upon him and those listening that it wasn't about one player this Olympic experience, the group was always larger that the individual, at least in theory.

While Modano was burning his bridges with US Hockey, Brian Gianta did a better job of analyzing the entire tournament from an American experience, Gianta said that he wasn't sure if it was nerves or what, but that his team came out flat far too often and just didn't get the job done. Comments that he might have heard repeated in a Canadian dressing room as their fellow NHL travelers from North America also made their plans to return home after an early exit.

Laviolette, who watched his team stumble through the early stages of the game suggested that they were standing as opposed to skating and never seemed to get untracked. His frustration at his non performing squad boiled over in the third with the benching of Modano and a high strung exhortation from the American bench during a time out. All to no avail, the Americans battled back but could not get that one extra goal to tie the game up and send it off to either over time or a shoot out.

Like their Canadian cousins, the Americans would find penalties particularly unhelpful as a Derrian Hatcher high stick knocked out two of Teemu Selannes teeth and the ensuing four minute penalty kill knocked all the wind out of the American sails.

The boxscore from Torino for the Americans will read as such: one win, one tie, four defeats, and elimination. Mike Celzic points out that the American exit comes on the 26th anniversary of that seminal American event the Miracle on Ice. in 2006 there would be no miracles, just it seems excuses and anger.

One famous incident from past US Olympic Hockey history was a rather ugly episode involving hotel room furniture and un-named American stars, one assumes that Waddell had all the furniture taken out of the rooms before the end of the third period.

It might be an idea to keep the liquor cabinet locked up on the plane home too, the players, coaches and managers have already said more than enough. Their play told all that needed to be said, the message was clear, in 2006 they just weren't good enough to compete. If misery loves company, they might want to share a flight home with the Canadians.

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