These Winter Olympics were full of surprises, but at least one thing wasn’t a shocker – how easily the men’s Olympic hockey team was, well . iced.And you know what? I’m glad. I’m relieved, even. In a Winter Olympics that saw Michelle Kwan tearfully drift to the wayside – and Bode Miller drift pretty much everywhere – it may be safe to say that the squad Don Waddell built is the biggest disappointment so far.
Want evidence? Check out this brutal remark by Finnish forward Teemu Selanne (after he got three teeth knocked out in Finland’s 4-3 victory over Team USA on Wednesday): “We know we can beat anybody when we play on our level, and we didn’t even didn’t have to play that well tonight.”
When you play a sport that allows haymakers and large men to carry big sticks, you have to be confident – or stupid – to say something like that.
But there’s a problem: Selanne’s right. Every team the U.S. (1-4-1) lost to in this Olympics has gotten by with “just enough;” all four losses came by one point. The only team the Americans beat, mighty Kazakhstan (1-4), didn’t even qualify for the quarterfinals.
And I don’t want to hear complaints about lodgings or plane tickets, Mike Modano. Are you serious? Your team loses four games out of six, squeaks into the quarterfinals and gets bounced from the first round of single elimination … and you spend the postgame interviews discussing how management failed to provide the athletes with adequate transportation options?
I’m equally unimpressed with your tears, Mr. Waddell. Getting emotional following the final chapter of a dismal 2006 performance does not inspire me to invest great faith in you. What might have assuaged my fears would have been an honest admission, a confession that this team did not gel, and four years from now, the personnel would be substantially different to ensure a different attitude. So what did you say?
“We’re out of the tournament, but it’s not like we have to blow it up and start over.”
Isn’t that a contradictory statement? How do you leave Torino with just one notch in your belt and not do it with a mindset focused on change? I bet you the men’s Olympic basketball team, following their unacceptable bronze medal two years ago, will look mighty different come 2008.
It’s the science of sports, Team USA: If your experiment blows up in your face, you better put it under the microscope.
Sports editor Travis Stewart is a junior broadcast journalism major from Sugar Land.