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WITH TEAM USA NIGHTMARE, NHL'S OLYMPIC ROLE IS RE-EXAMINED
Published February 19, 1998
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).