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Gretzky: No Regrets for Rant

February 20, 2002

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WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah (AP) _ Team Canada executive director Wayne Gretzky refused to apologize Tuesday for a post-game rant the day before accusing other Olympic teams of delighting in Canadian hockey failures.

Gretzky also said following Monday’s 3-3 tie with the Czech Republic there is a double standard in which any physical play by Canadians is criticized as overly aggressive ``hooliganism ... by goons″ but is tolerated from European players.

``Was it emotional? Yeah. Did it come from my heart? Yeah. I felt our team was getting bombarded, so I stood up for our hockey club,″ Gretzky said Tuesday. ``Do I apologize? I have nothing to apologize for. I’ve said it, and let’s move on, we’ve got a game tomorrow against Finland.″

Team Canada drew considerable criticism in its national press following a 5-2 loss to Sweden and a much closer-than-expected 3-2 victory over Germany, but Gretzky was especially upset with unfounded rumors that captain Mario Lemieux was unhappy and had returned to Pittsburgh.

Lemieux, bothered by a recurring hip injury, was ineffective in the Sweden loss and sat out the Germany game, but returned to score two goals against the Czechs.

``We took our lumps for the last five days, and some things that were said really made me furious, like Mario’s going home and not being happy ... it just didn’t make sense to me,″ Gretzky said. ``I’d had pretty much enough of what was being said about our hockey team, it’s as simple as that. I couldn’t say it any more clearly: I’m proud of our team.″

Canada coach Pat Quinn didn’t talk to reporters Tuesday, but Gretzky anticipates no significant lineup changes and hinted that Martin Brodeur will make his third consecutive start in goal. Curtis Joseph, expected to be Canada’s starter throughout the Olympics, hasn’t played since the Sweden loss.

Gretzky also said Lemieux has an injured hip _ Lemieux had hip surgery in late October and later missed two months of the NHL season _ and not a bad back. Lemieux had several major back operations earlier in his career.

``Quite honestly, I didn’t know when I first saw him if it was hip or groin because he had his groin and hip wrapped,″ Gretzky said. ``But he says he’s fine, he says he’s 100 percent or close to 100 percent.

``He said he would have gotten a shot (to play), but we took him out Sunday just to give him a rest and a break. We thought it would good for him and good for our team, and you saw what he did (Monday).″

For the rest of the Olympics, a shootout will break any overtime ties. Gretzky, then a player, was inexplicably left out when five Canada stars were stopped by Czech goalie Dominik Hasek in a 1998 semifinal shootout loss in Nagano.

``Two or three (choices) are obvious,″ Gretzky said, later identifying Lemieux, Joe Sakic, Paul Kariya and Eric Lindros. ``I would imagine No. 66 (Lemieux) would be in that mix. Maybe he could take a shot, rest, then take another shot.″

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