Four years later and they still don't get it.
The U.S. Olympic hockey players from the NHLthey still don't understand how badly they acted and how small they sound on the matter of the dorm-trashing incident at the Nagano Games in 1998.
These big, tough hockey players who can compete in the playoffs on broken ankles and sheared anterior cruciate ligaments don't have the spine to stand up and say, "I did it," which would've ended much of this talk.
But no one did. No one has yet. So the matter was revisited Thursday at a news conference in advance of the U.S. men's Olympic opener against Finland on Friday night. Forward Bill Guerin, a holdover from the dorm-trashing '98 team, was there, as was his Boston teammate, Brian Rolston, and assistant coach Lou Vairo.
In fielding what he said was the "millionth question," Guerin denied he was involved and said it was "behind us. We put that to bed. What we're concentrating on right now is the 2002 Olympics and trying to win a gold medal.
"We are who we are. We've always carried ourselves well. We've always represented our NHL teams well and our U.S. teams well. I don't think we really have to change much,"
Excuse me? Look, the matter is not put to bed. Not as long as the perpetrators remain unaccounted for.
But wait. It gets worse. Not only was the matter revisited, it was reignited. If they played the ugly Americans in Japan, they sounded like the ugly Americans in America on Thursday, specifically Vairo.
"They broke a few chairs," said Vairo, who wasn't part of the Nagano contingent. "Chris Chelios, the U.S. captain, apologized to the Japanese people, to the Olympic movement, to everyone involved. He gave a generous donation."
No, Chelios did not make a "donation." He wrote a $3,000 check for repairing the damage done by his teammates who remain in hiding.
What's more, the U.S. men, who again will live in the Athletes Village, did not just break a few chairs. They damaged a dorm room. They carried on loudly enough to disturb other athletes who hadn't completed their competitions. After failing to medal, they tossed a fire extinguisher over the balcony and engaged in a scuffle, said an NHL source, where the fire extinguisher "was used like you'd turn a hose on two dogs fighting."
Their actions insulted their Japanese hosts, who greatly value personal possessions.
Their actions insulted the International Olympic Committee, which changed the rules so they could participate.
Their actions insulted the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Hockey, which took care of their travel, lodging, food, etc.
Their actions insulted the International Ice Hockey Federation, which brokered the deal with the NHL, the NHL Players Association and the IOC to get the best players on the planet into the most hyped hockey tournament in the world.
Their actions insulted the NHL (except for Blackhawks owner Bill Wirtz, who wrote a letter supporting their inadequate silence), which shut down for business for 17 days so they could represent their country.
Oh, and they insulted their country.
But wait. It gets worse still.
"I bet half you guys in this room would've busted a couple chairs when your wife shows you the credit cards at the end of the week," Vairo said.
"Or some of you ladies busted a couple of chairs when you saw the credit cards your husband took."
Apparently, there are a lot of things Vairo doesn't get.
"I'll say on behalf of USA Hockey, we apologized then and now," Vairo said to the media he was lecturing. "You've got people biting guys' ears off and poking people. Write about them."
This is what the NHL wants to hear? This is what the IOC and USOC and USA Hockey want to see from its American representatives as it hosts games on American soil?
Even at the end of the hourlong news conference, Vairo was given a chance to soften his stance when asked if he could understand the outside view of the incident and that if the perpetrators had just fessed up, it would be done.
But no. Vairo ranted about how sportswriters don't put their necks on the line the way coaches and players do, how the country stops for Olympic hockey, how we should just drop the whole dorm-trashing incident.
Thing is, somewhere in the middle of Vairo's monologue was this:
"They probably should've just said, 'Hey, I did this, this and this. Sorry. I apologize. If there's any cost involved [they will pay it]."
So there you go. Even the defenders of the indefensible know the boys should act like men. But they didn't then. They aren't now.
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