Wednesday, December 21, 2011

National Disgrace... Or Lost In Translation...?

It's a sad day when one of the finest players of his time in his particular sport can manage to do a complete 180 and become a national disgrace.

No, not Mark McGwire... I'm talking about a watchable sport.

Peter Forsberg -- who won two Stanley Cups with the Colorado Avalanche in 1996 and 2001, and scored the gold-medal winning shootout goal at the Lillehammer Olympics in 1994 -- turns out that he might have been part of an Olympic dive... in the Winter Games in 2006.

Or... it's all a big misunderstanding.

In a documentary about his life, Forsberg has supposedly admitted Sweden may have tanked against Slovakia in 2006 to secure an easier path to the Gold Medal that didn't involve a game against the Russians or the Canadians. The Swedes lost to Slovakia 3-0, but then won three straight win the Gold against Finland.

Is anyone else having a hard time not feeling a little sick? Just a little?

I know I'm a little ill at the prospect that there is any truth to this, as a fan of this great sport. The very idea of tanking in general bothers me. Normally when you hear about it, it has something to do with phoning in the rest of the season in order to improve your draft position... like the Cavaliers supposedly did in order to get Lebron James.

Now, this is a little different, because this is one of those cases which tanking actually gave Sweden a competitive edge at the time... on the ice in the tournament. Sure, there is always a chance that this little plan could have backfired and Sweden doesn't win the gold in 2006.

However, what upsets me --  and I would assert any hockey fan -- is this: If you're going to tank on the ice... the Olympics would be the POOREST choice of venue to do so.

Keep in mind... this is all during the era of NHL players on Olympic teams. It's a situation in which you hear NHL players gushing about what a holy honor it is to be able to play for their home countries in the Olympics.

Represent their home nations.

Win Gold for their homelands.

What does it say to the world if a bunch of players were willing to put on their nation's uniform in the Olympics... and take a freakin' DIVE?

Still not sure? Okay, try this little twist…

What does it say about a national hockey team that would take a dive because they're essentially scared to play Russia or Canada?

For the record, two players have denied this already, including team captain Mats Sundin.

But why would Peter Forsberg say it? Why would Sweden's greatest hockey player place his own reputation, and the reputations of his teammates -- his countrymen -- in doubt?

Or did he even say it? Why don't we know for sure?

Hell, why isn't there an independent translation of this interview yet?

If there is any truth to this, what does that say about Sweden? About the NHL? How about the NHL's participation in the Olympics?

I, for one, would say this would bolster my argument against continuing to send NHL players to the Olympics. Hell, as a hockey fan, I wouldn't care who was playing. I'd still watch it... and I think most hockey fans would. There are plenty of young players out there around the world who would love to have the opportunity to play for their national teams.

I seriously doubt you'd ever hear anyone talking about tanking if the Olympics went back to non-NHL players. Representing your nation in the Olympics is a privilege... one that should be reserved for those who work hard to get there.

And leave no doubt that they would work for it, and leave everything on the ice.

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1 comment:

  1. I thought I'd heard this a long time ago before, and thought it was fact. Doesn't really surprise me...while it's definitely cowardly, it ended up working to their advantage. And like you said, even though they were playing "weaker" teams, any one of them could have upset Sweden.

    I guess I'm just not as upset about it as I maybe should be. Oh, and I've always thought Peter Forsberg was overrated anyway, and I've never really cared about anything that came out of his mouth. So maybe that's part of why this doesn't bother me. To each their own, I guess.