SBD/19/Olympics

WITH TEAM USA NIGHTMARE, NHL'S OLYMPIC ROLE IS RE-EXAMINED

          Thirty minutes into CBS's Olympic broadcast last night,
     Jim Nantz said, "Team USA and hockey came into Nagano a
     strong medal favorite.  They leave here as one of the all-
     time U.S. Olympic disappointments.  Forget about a dream,
     this was a nightmare for Team USA. ... If 1980 was the
     Miracle On Ice, then American fans and players will remember
     1998 as the Disaster On Ice."   Nantz: "Team USA's loss did
     more than just eliminate them from play.  It might have
     defeated the whole purpose of the NHL even coming here to
     Japan.  The National Hockey League clearly had a mission --
     with all the exposure it hoped to get with the United States
     in this tournament, it would help ignite the popularity of
     the sport in the United States and that is clearly not going
     to happen."  Nantz called the team's play "uninspired [and]
     forgettable," with a "sting that will last for four years
     until they get to Salt Lake City."  He noted while "there is
     plenty of excellent hockey to be played here ... [T]his has
     to be a tremendous blow to the well-laid plans of the
     National Hockey League" ("Olympic Primetime," CBS, 2/18).
          NEXT MOVE: USA TODAY's Kevin Allen called the early
     exit "the latest in a series of events that undercut the
     NHL's attempt to broaden exposure through Olympic
     participation."  NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman: "This was
     never intended to be a watershed event.  It is a building
     block no matter what happened.  How big a building block it
     would be was a function that no one had any control over." 
     While the league hasn't committed to Salt Lake, "many people
     in hockey predict the NHL will be there" (USA TODAY, 2/19). 
          OTHER REAX: ESPN's Al Morganti called the NHL's Nagano
     participation in light of the U.S. loss "an unmitigated
     disaster."  Morganti: "I still think they go ahead with Salt
     Lake City, better time difference and all, and maybe they
     get a U.S. team that looks like it's interested in actually
     playing a game or two."  But ESPN's Darren Pang said, "If
     anything, it's not a step backwards, this is a learning
     process for everybody" ("SportsCenter," 2/18).  NEWSDAY's
     Mark Herrmann: "This was not what the [NHL] had in mind when
     it shut down for more than two weeks" (NEWSDAY, 2/19).  In
     Toronto, Garth Woolsey: "Most Americans were dubious about
     hockey before Bettman, with the players' blessing, shut down
     operations for two weeks.  Now they've got to be doubly
     dubious" (TORONTO STAR, 2/19).  In Houston, John Lopez wrote
     the NHL experiment "blew up in the Americans' faces"
     (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 2/19).  In Phoenix, David Casstevens:
     "Do You Believe In Debacles?! -- Yesssss!" (ARIZONA
     REPUBLIC, 2/19).  In N.Y., Lisa Olson: "What had started out
     as a grand idea suddenly seemed almost embarrassing" (N.Y.
     DAILY NEWS, 2/19).  In N.Y., Filip Bondy writes that with
     this outcome, "maybe the schedule break is less likely to be
     repeated for Salt Lake City in 2002" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS,
     2/19).  In DC, Thom Loverro calls the tournament a
     "disaster" as the "league won't realize the big payoff it
     had anticipated" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 2/19).  In N.Y., Harvey
     Araton writes that "apparently" nobody, not even the league,
     can "script a hockey competition" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/19).  
          PLAYERS GET RIPPED: In Chicago, Jay Mariotti: "Poor
     hockey.  It deserves so much better than the lame effort
     extended by Team USA" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 2/19).  In K.C.,
     Jason Whitlock writes the U.S. players "let the league down"
     (K.C. STAR, 2/19).  In the CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR,
     Douglas Looney writes that Olympic participation could be a
     "bad idea" for NHL players.  Looney: "Maybe [the players]
     are so zeroed in on the NHL season that something like this
     was more a bother than an opportunity" (CSM, 2/19).  The 
     header over Dan Barreiro's column in Minneapolis: "The Most
     Humiliating U.S. Hockey Showing Ever" (STAR TRIBUNE, 2/19). 
     Header over Bob Wojnowksi's story in Detroit: "U.S. Men's
     Hockey Laughable" (DETROIT NEWS, 2/19).  In L.A., Mike
     Downey: "We could have sent the Mighty Ducks over and done
     better" (L.A. TIMES, 2/19).  In Tampa, David Whitley
     compares the men's and women's hockey performances: "[D]on't
     send a man to do a woman's job" (TAMPA TRIBUNE, 2/19).  In
     Orlando, George Diaz calls the team "frauds" (ORLANDO
     SENTINEL, 2/19).  In S.F., C.W. Nevius calls the performance
     an "embarrassment" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 2/19).  In L.A., Mike
     Penner: "Do you believe in national humiliation?" (L.A.
     TIMES, 2/19).  In DC, Michael Wilbon calls it the "most
     disappointing performance of any team from any country in
     these Winter Olympics" (WASHINGTON POST, 2/19).  In Seattle,
     Elliott Almond wrote U.S. hockey "took 10 steps backward"
     with the early exit (SEATTLE TIMES, 2/19).  In Atlanta,
     Steve Hummer: "Those guys ended up doing as much to advance
     hockey as global warming" (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 2/19).
          BE GONE WITH YOU? In N.Y., Wallace Matthews writes
     under the header, "Bring Back The Amateurs."  He calls the
     Dream Team concept a "terrible idea," adding "what happened
     in Nagano is something we should never see again" (N.Y.
     POST, 2/19). In St. Paul, Tom Powers: "It would be better to
     lose these games with amateurs who are realizing a lifelong
     dream, rather than pros who have no particular loyalty and
     no vested interest" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 2/19).  In his
     column on CBS SportsLine, Bob Kravitz writes, "A bunch of
     American college kids could have made it to the final round
     of the medal play. ... And they could have done it with a
     lot more class and a lot more grace" (CBS SportsLine, 2/19). 
     But in Ft. Worth, Gil LeBreton writes that the NHL/Olympic
     participation "isn't the concept that needs to be changed
     for Team USA, it's the attitude" (STAR-TELEGRAM, 2/19).  

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