Smoke, but not a lot of fire to Canadian women’s hockey celebration
It was the sort of hat trick the International Olympic Committee didn’t want to see: puffing on cigars, throwing back swigs of champagne and finding a landing spot atop the Zamboni.
This might be typical celebratory behavior on the golf course (sans the Zamboni, of course), but the postgame revelry by the gold medal-winning Canadian women’s hockey team sparked instant international debate and criticism late Thursday night.
Not quite a day later, the IOC backed off its initial assertion that it would investigate the incident and seemed mollified by the swift apology issued by Hockey Canada.
“I would say to characterize it as an investigation would be wrong,” IOC spokesperson Mark Adams said at a morning briefing Friday. “We are just writing them a letter just to find out a few more details.”
He maintained that the scrutiny was coming not from the IOC but the media. That seemed partially correct. The IOC didn’t weigh in, apparently, until asked about it by the Associated Press. Still, an IOC official did use the words “investigate the actions” in the AP report Thursday night.
“To be honest, I think people are in search of a story that doesn’t exist,” Adams said. “There were pictures all over the front pages this morning. I guess we’ll just be asking for some clarifications and explanation of what occurred.”
Later, it sounded as though the apology served as sufficient damage control.
“I think if you read the statement from the athletes, they clearly knew they had gone out of bounds and they said it was inappropriate and they apologized for any embarrassment, so I think it’s pretty clear they know they overstepped the bounds,” Adams said.
Canadian Olympic Committee President Michael Chambers later said that there was no “celebration code of conduct” for athletes.
“They’re expected to exhibit exemplary behavior,” he said. “The women were posing for what they at the time thought were fun photos. They realize, in hindsight, it was an error in judgment. They’ve expressed their regret and the Olympic committee is very comfortable with that.”
But Canadian captain Hayley Wickenheiser explained that the players had wanted to take some pictures on the ice long after the game ended, figuring that the place would be empty.
Not quite. Fans were gone, but media members were still on hand.
“I’m not ashamed or embarrassed at all,” Wickenheiser said. “We just want to make sure that people know it was done in good taste. It is really unfortunate. We just won an Olympic gold medal in our own country and today we are having to defend how we celebrated our Olympic gold medal. Nobody got hurt.
“It is tough, but at the same time, it’ll be fine. It’s almost humorous.”
One underage player, 18-year-old Marie-Philip Poulin, was shown in a Newark Star-Ledger photo drinking a beer. Apparently Chambers did not see that photo when he said he was not aware she was drinking the beer.
The legal drinking age in British Columbia is 19. “She didn’t inhale,” Chambers said, when someone invoked the famous Bill Clinton line. “It was a Clinton-esque experience, I guess.”
Even lead singer Alan Doyle of the band Great Big Sea, scheduled to perform in Vancouver on Friday night, got pulled into the controversy.
Doyle, who appeared with VANOC officials to promote the band’s appearance, had the best take on the controversy. (Maybe this should all be called Great Big Party.)
“I was right there with them. It was great,” Doyle said. “If you play in a band -- this might sound like a desperate comparison, and forgive me if is -- I’ve always noted the similarity of playing in a band for a living and playing team sports for a living. You’re going to have 10 bad days for one good day and you’ve got to love that one good day and that celebration so much it makes everything else worth it.
“I saw the gals celebrating yesterday and that’s a real good example of it. That’s one of those days where you get a pat on the back.”
Times staff writer David Wharton contributed to this report.
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