TURIN, Italy - Mike Modano packed up his stuff and left Italy on Thursday morning, skipping a final meeting with his Olympic teammates after they were eliminated a night earlier in the men’s hockey quarterfinals.
USA Hockey spokesman Dave Fischer said the longtime Dallas Stars forward — who sharply criticized team management after the Americans’ elimination Wednesday — was the only member of the 23-player squad not to gather at the arena where the Americans were knocked out by Finland.
Modano lashed out after he was benched by coach Peter Laviolette for most of the third period of the 4-3 loss.
“A lot of guys have been there for many years, and maybe we need some new blood in there to run things a little differently,” said Modano, who has represented the U.S. in 11 international competitions. “It’s probably time some things changed.”
When pressed for details of his complaint, Modano cited logistical problems in getting the full team of NHL players and their families over to Europe.
“You’d think USA Hockey would be a well-oiled machine, but it’s not,” he said. “Basically we were on our own for hotels, tickets, flights, stuff like that.”
Left Italy early
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.
“He’s emotional after the games,” Los Angeles Kings forward Craig Conroy said. “I don’t know if he was just emotional or if he really meant it.”
New Jersey forward Brian Gionta didn’t join Modano in ripping USA Hockey leaders.
“I’ve only played in a couple of world championships and world juniors,” Gionta said. “He’s been around a lot longer, so he knows more than I would.”
Modano is not expected to be in the roster mix for the 2010 Games in Vancouver, when he will be near 40.
Other mainstays not expected back for Vancouver include familiar names such as Chris Chelios, Doug Weight and Keith Tkachuk. They are likely to be replaced by younger players like Paul Martin, Ryan Miller and Bobby Ryan.
“We have a lot of good, young players at USA Hockey and a lot of guys coming,” general manager Don Waddell said. “We can take the positives out of this game and out of the whole tournament.”
USA Hockey is in transition, and not many expected the American team to skate off with a medal this year. At the same time, most anticipated the team would do more than just tie Latvia and beat Kazakhstan — both teams with only a handful of NHL players.
Against elite clubs the U.S. lost all four of its games, each by one goal. Tkachuk, a former 50-goal scorer in the NHL, had no points — nor did New York Islanders Jason Blake and Mark Parrish.
“We’re out of the tournament, but certainly it’s not like it’s something we have to blow up and start over, because every game we were right in there,” Waddell said.
No youth movement
Instead of going with a strict youth movement or a team laden with veteran leadership, Waddell and his staff tried to pick players off to good starts in the NHL season.
So 44-year-old captain Chelios made it as did immobile defenseman Derian Hatcher. Brian Leetch, an American stalwart on defense, wasn’t chosen because of injury troubles. Martin is still developing his game with the Devils.
Waddell defended the approach.
“The oldest guy in the tournament was one of our better players,” he said of Chelios. “Unfortunately not everybody had the jump that he had. If we did, we’d probably be talking about something differently.”
For the coach, USA Hockey selected Carolina Hurricanes coach Laviolette, a former Olympic player and international coach, over candidates who included John Tortorella — who led Tampa Bay to the 2004 Stanley Cup title.