Saturday, February 23, 2002
Fasel 'disappointed' integrity in question
WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah -- International hockey's governing
body angrily rejected claims by the Russian coach that a referee
cost his team a chance to win the gold medal.
Rene Fasel, head of the ice hockey federation, defended the
officiating at the Salt Lake City Olympics, saying Saturday it was
"of the highest possible level."
After his team lost 3-2 to the United States in the semifinals
Friday, coach Slava Fetisov criticized the referee and said a
Canada-United States gold-medal game was intended all along.
"The referee's decisions were not the reason why Russia lost,"
Fetisov, however, said Canada and the United States got an
unfair advantage under an agreement requiring NHL referees in games
in which players from the league make up 50 percent of the rosters.
Bill McCreary of Canada was the referee for the Russia-U.S. game
and also will work the Canada-U.S. game Sunday. The other NHL
referees in Salt Lake City are Stephen Walkom and Dennis LaRue,
both of the United States.
Fetisov stood by his remarks Saturday.
"In a competition like that, the refereeing should be neutral.
They made the agreement before, and we're kind of hostages of this
situation," Fetisov said.
Several Russian players, including Danny Markov, screamed at
McCreary as he left the ice after Friday's game, causing Markov to
be suspended for Russia's 7-2 bronze-medal victory Saturday over
"You can always criticize certain calls and try to prove that
the referee made a mistake in a certain situation," Fasel said in
a statement. "But when the coach of a team tries to undermine and
question the integrity of the Olympic hockey tournament, it makes
me very angry and disappointed."
Russian goalie Nikolai Khabibulin, no doubt aware he must go
back to playing in games officiated by NHL referees and linesmen,
disagreed with Fetisov's comments, saying the officiating was fair.
Khabibulin probably had more problems with a defense that didn't
tighten up until the start of the third period, when Russia trailed
3-0 and Khabibulin had faced 38 shots to only 11 for U.S. goalie
Fetisov, a longtime Soviet star before starting his NHL playing
and coaching career, was under considerable pressure to win a gold
medal with a lineup loaded with high-scoring forwards. Some Russian
players lobbied Russian president Vladimir Putin to choose Fetisov,
who is not especially popular with Russian hockey federation
Even before the hockey loss, the Russians had threatened to
leave Salt Lake City because of alleged favoritism in other sports,
including figure skating, before deciding to stay.
"I have known Slava Fetisov for many years and I consider him a
good friend and hope that he made the comments in the heat of the
moment and that he really didn't mean what he said," Fasel said.