Before the Torino Games even began, Wayne Gretzky said that he would assume the blame if Team Canada did not win gold. After Wednesday's loss in the quarterfinal round that eliminated Canada from medal contention, The Great One was forced to live up to his own words.
"I'll take, and deservedly so, the responsibility of us not winning," Gretzky said in a news conference following Canada's 2-0 loss to Russia. "That's the situation I'm in, the position I have. I feel tremendously responsible that we didn't win."
While Gretzky's mea culpa was largely expected, he surprised the room when he floated the idea of recusing himself from his role of executive director of Team Canada.
"Quite honestly," a tired Gretzky told the throng of reporters, "I'm going to re-assess where I fit and what I'm going to do in the future. Hockey Canada is wonderful, my country is great, and I love it dearly. But I'm also human, too. It's tough and it's nerve-wracking. It's not fun when you don't win."
Gretzky has had a difficult last few months, on and off the ice. In December, the first-year head coach of the Phoenix Coyotes lost his mother, Phyllis, to a battle with lung cancer. During the weeks leading up to the Olympics, Gretzky was hounded by questions about an alleged gambling ring in which his assistant coach and close friend Rick Tocchet has been implicated. Gretzky's wife, Janet Jones, has also been mentioned in connection with the case, and is reported to have bet more than $100,000 through the ring.
"Honestly it's been a horrible three months for me," said Gretzky. "Personally, as you move forward, your health becomes more important than anything, and it's been a rough three months."
But Wednesday's press conference was clearly more about the devastation of Team Canada's premature exit from the Olympics than any of the things Gretzky has been dealing with in his personal life.
"It's a hard tournament to win," Gretzky said. "In saying that, it's horrible to lose. We all have a hand in this, we all have a responsibility in this loss. But there's no words to describe how devastating a loss this is."
Russia, Sweden, Finland and Slovakia are still in the running for a medal in Torino. The semifinals will be played Friday.