David Poile, general manager of the U.S. men’s Olympic hockey team, apologized Friday to forward Bobby Ryan after disparaging comments about the winger’s abilities that were made during the team selection process were published by two reporters who had extensive access to the decision-making process.
Ryan, a former member of the Ducks who now plays for Ottawa, was omitted from Team USA’s 25-player roster despite his goal-scoring abilities, perhaps the biggest surprise when the team was announced on Wednesday. Brian Burke, Ryan’s general manager when both were in Anaheim and now the interim general manager of the Calgary Flames as well as a Team USA executive, was quoted by ESPN.com’s Scott Burnside as saying Ryan is passive and “can’t spell intense.” USA Today’s Kevin Allen quoted Poile as saying Ryan is “like the hare is out there running and he might do something real good for a while but can't stick [with] it.”
Poile said during a conference call Friday that the criticism of Ryan didn’t accurately reflect the entire selection process but he understood why Ryan is upset.
“I apologize as much as I can,” Poile said. “As far as anything to denigrate any player, that was not what any of us signed up for. ... What goes on in a dressing room should stay in a dressing room. Unfortunately, this was just a little bit too much.
“For the umpteenth time, I totally apologize to Bobby Ryan on behalf our staff, which includes Brian Burke, who was absolutely the biggest supporter of Bobby Ryan on our staff.”
Allen and Burnside attended management strategy sessions over the last few months or had access to telephone conference calls in which Team USA executives discussed players’ attributes and faults. The reporters detailed how players rose or fell in the collective rankings and quoted Burke extensively about Ryan.
Poile said USA Hockey welcomed Burnside and Allen’s presence in an effort to popularize the game and was “happy to have them part of our team, if you will.” Poile also said Team USA executives believed they had the right to prevent publication of objectionable comments -- as with their control over material in HBO’s "24/7" series -- and that Burke had included Ryan’s name on Burke’s suggested final roster.
“Unfortunately the comments were a little harsh,” Poile said. “The problem that we had with a communication breakdown that happened there was we thought this was similar to a '24/7' situation where we had editorial review on what was going to be said. It caught all of us off-guard. And again, that’s on us.”
Poile said he had contacted Bryan Murray, the general manager of the Ottawa Senators, and that Burke had tried to call Ryan to explain what happened. The harshness of the published comments was surprising given the close-mouthed nature of most hockey executives. The criticism, and Ryan’s omission from the team, have been hotly debated by hockey fans.
“I think all of you know that in a management setting we’re dealing on a daily basis with talking about our players. Sometimes positively, sometimes critically,” Poile said. “Again, what goes on in the room should stay in the room. And unfortunately, this was a characterization that on the whole was not representative of what actually happened. …
“For the things that were said against Bobby Ryan, there was many, many things that were said positively about Bobby Ryan, and I’m just sorry that got out. As managers, I’m speaking for myself and Brian Burke and the other guys on our committee.”
Poile also said the rise of left wings Max Pacioretty and James van Reimsdyk and the speed and scoring of right wing Blake Wheeler were among the factors in leaving Ryan off the team.
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