NHL To Investigate Room Trashings
Feb. 21, 1998
NAGANO, Japan (AP) _ The damage is done, and now the NHL intends to find out who did it.
Commissioner Gary Bettman said Friday the league will investigate which U.S. hockey players were involved in damaging their Olympic Village rooms, and, if necessary, discipline them.
Three apartments occupied by USA players were trashed hours after their 4-1 loss to the Czechs on Wednesday, causing $3,000 in damage. The vandalism was minimal _ a few chairs broken, a couple of fire extinguishers emptied _ but it clearly antagonized the team's Japanese hosts.
The league probably won't identify the culprits until NHL teams begin reassembling for the resumption of play next week and USA team members can be interviewed. For now, they are scattered around the country, and some stopped in Hawaii to play golf.
``Under the NHL constitution, I have the power to discipline action that is detrimental to hockey,'' Bettman said.
``We had less than a handful of people, maybe only one, do something that everybody would agree was wrong,'' he said. ``The damage was not monumental, fortunately. But the conduct was inappropriate and we'll try to find out who was responsible and deal with it.''
Bettman, NHL vice president Brian Burke and players' union head Bob Goodenow viewed the damage, and USOC officials met with the exasperated Nagano organizers. Bettman said the league's security chief would work with USA Hockey on the investigation.
Goodenow agrees the incident is being blown out of proportion.
``This wasn't vandalism or wanton destruction of property,'' Goodenow said. ``This wasn't nearly as bad as people are making it out to be. I saw it. Some folding chairs got broken. They were weak and break when you lean back on them. The fire extinguisher, there's no excuse for that. There's no excuse for any of it. I'm not condoning it, but it wasn't as bad as it appears.''
Rene Fasel, head of the governing International Ice Hockey Federation, also played down the incident.
``It's not a big thing. For me, it's not. The feedback I have is it's not so bad. Every (Olympic) year we have 2,500 athletes in the village. Things happen every time,'' he said Saturday.
All of the appropriate bodies _ the NHL, USA Hockey and the NHL Players Association _ swifly expressed remorse.
Asked if he was happy with the apologies, Ko Yamaguchi, a spokesman for the Nagano Olympic organizing committee, replied: ``I'm not happy. It's a very sad incident. It was a very dangerous incident, not in line with the Olympic spirit.
``It's quite regrettable that these things happen. But they should not happen. The Olympic Village should be respected.''
To Jeremy Roenick, the incident hadn't sounded like a big deal. He said he, Tony Amonte and Pat LaFontaine were in their rooms packing at 3 a.m. Thursday when they heard something.
``But it wasn't anything that I would walk outside for and say, `Hey what's going on?''' Roenick told the Chicago Tribune.
``Maybe what they're talking about are the chairs. The chairs and furniture that we had were definitely not made for NHL players. The chairs would fall apart right there, just sitting on them. We went through nine chairs with five guys in the apartment. It was ridiculous.''
U.S. captain Chris Chelios said he, Gary Suter and their wives were at a restaurant when the rooms were damaged.
``If that's true that someone trashed the rooms, it's really sad,'' Chelios told the Tribune.
The NHL players had been praised by their amateur counterparts on the U.S. team for disdaining expensive hotel rooms to stay in the dormitory-style apartments. Now, some clearly wish the millionaire players had stayed away.
``It's embarrassing because most people leave the Olympic Village with no gold medal. There's no million-dollar contract for them,'' luger Erin Warren said. ``It was very disappointing. ... I'm disgusted by it.''
``I feel sad for them (because) that's how they will be remembered,'' said Anita DeFrantz, an IOC vice president from the United States.
That's what bothers the NHL, which wishes the focus would be on the Czechs' upset of Canada and Pavel Bure's five-goal game in Russia's semifinal victory over Finland.
``Anytime something like this happens on a large scale, there are some image repairs that might need to be made,'' Goodenow said. ``But, again, this wasn't that big a deal, not nearly as big as other incidents that take place over the course of time. It was unfortunate.''
So was the timing _ after all, this wasn't a Mighty Ducks-Canucks game in October, but the Olympics.
``It is not acceptable what they did, but sometimes it is not always avoidable,'' Fasel said.
``I'm not trying to excuse their behavior, but sometimes sports people will not always be sportsmen.''