Modano skips meeting; USA Hockey responds to claims
TORINO, Italy -- After the U.S. quarterfinal loss to Finland, Dallas Stars captain Mike Modano made headlines with his comments that, among other things, USA Hockey hadn't looked after its players adequately.
Then, on Thursday, Modano packed up his stuff and left Italy on Thursday morning, skipping a final meeting with his Olympic teammates. USA Hockey spokesman Dave Fischer said Modano was the only member of the 23-player squad not to gather at the arena where the Americans were knocked out by Finland. Modano caught a flight home Thursday. The rest of the team was scheduled to leave Friday morning, before the start of the weekend's medal-round games.
USA Hockey executive director Dave Ogrean told ESPN.com the organization had received no complaints from any other players regarding the handling of the team.
Modano raised three issues: tickets, housing and air travel.
In terms of housing, USA Hockey officials put together a list of options for players' families (the team stays in the athletes' village), including contact information for housing brokers, tour operators, U.S. Olympic Committee travel partners and Torino organizers' travel partners, Ogrean said.
"Not every athlete wants the same thing," he said. "We didn't get any negative feedback from the players at that time."
As for the tickets to games, Ogrean said USA Hockey asked every player what his needs were going to be, given the size of their respective groups.
"We met their requirements for tickets for every single player's family for every single game," Ogrean said.
The one thing USA Hockey did not do was charter a flight for the players' families. This was no doubt a sore point for some American players, who quietly complained about the cost and hassle of booking flights for their entourages.
Team Canada, for instance, brought its entire team and everyone's families over to Torino on a charter flight, although they now appear to be stuck in Torino for the duration of the games because they can't get the charter to come back early.
"We can't always do what Canada does," Ogrean said. "On the airplane thing, they were on their own."
Can team services be better?
Ogrean said that when the 2010 Olympics roll around in Vancouver, there will undoubtedly be improvements, in part because organizers will have more time to plan because the event will be in North America.
Ogrean admitted he was disappointed in Modano's comments, which suggested that the organization needs some new blood. Ogrean called Modano "one of the greatest American players ever" and suggested that the comments might have been born out of the frustration of being ousted in the quarterfinals.
How bad was Canada's offense at the Olympic tournament? Brad Richards was the team's leading scorer with four points. Three Italian players, Tony Iob, Giorgio de Bettin and John Parco, had four points, as well. And they played one game fewer.
For Vancouver Canucks GM Dave Nonis and head coach Marc Crawford, the end of the Olympics can't come soon enough.
Already without the services of Ed Jovanovski, who had surgery to repair a sports hernia, the Canucks' blue line corps has been decimated in recent days.
Sami Salo, who has been a pleasant surprise for the Canucks, isn't expected to play for the Finns in the semifinal game because of a badly bruised (some said separated) shoulder. The injury was incurred when Salo ran into a teammate during a line change. The Canucks also will be without Mattias Ohlund for a week to 10 days after he suffered a rib injury in Sweden's game against the Swiss. He, too, will miss semifinal action.
Russian GM Pavel Bure recalled the feeling on the Russian team that won silver in 1998, losing a nail-biter to the Czech Republic in the gold medal game. Bure said the team was so close that players solemnly shook hands with each other at the end of the tournament because they were thankful for the opportunity to have played with each other. "I was trying to transfer that '98 to here," Bure said.
Asked whether he thought the Russians were playing so well because many of the young Russians grew up idolizing Bure when he played, he said: "It's not that they're playing for me or my team. They're playing for their country."
Scott Burnside is an NHL writer for ESPN.com.
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