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).