Modano complained about being flown in and then having to find hotel rooms and tickets for family members who came to watch the games. USA Hockey offered no help with any of those things, he said, and it was a major distraction.
It’s clear the team also needed more youngsters. Laviolette implied that Modano didn’t have a jump in his step, but the coach kept rolling ancient Keith Tkachuk into the game, and Tkachuk responded with dumb penalties and bad play.
“We did not play that well as a team,” forward Brian Rolston sid. “I don’t know if we were nervous or what. We didn’t get it done.”
Rolston also said the team never really jelled. You can blame that, if you wish, on the fact that the team played its first game a day after arriving in Turin, so the players really didn’t even have time to practice together. But it’s the same for every other team here, so that’s hardly an excuse.
And there really is no excuse for 1-4-1 any more than there’s an excuse for virtually every player choosing the quarterfinal match with Finland as the game in which to play their worst. From the bad penalties to the soft goals yielded by goalie Rick DiPietro, this one was a total team effort — or lack of same.
It’s not much of a legacy, especially when you compare it to the example set by a bunch of amateurs 26 years ago in Lake Placid. Laviolette said that there will never be another Miracle on Ice. That performance was utterly unexpected. Today, he said, “The expectation should be to come here and win a gold medal.”
That’s not easy, given the parity in hockey around the world, and to win another gold medal would be “a tremendous accomplishment.”
But it’s not going to happen with this kind of play. It’s not going to happen with one of the team’s best players sitting on the bench. It’s not going to happen with players distracted by having to find hotels and tickets for wives and children, parents and friends. It’s not going to happen with the sloppy play we saw against Finland.
They didn’t need a miracle, just dedication, desire and discipline. And they couldn’t find it.
“We were on our heels,” Laviolette said, summing it up perfectly. “They were on their toes.”