Hockey captain defends celebrations

15Jan

Canadian women’s ice hockey captain Hayley Wickenheiser called for critics of the players’ celebration of their gold medal win in which they guzzled beer and smoked cigars to “get real.

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The impromptu party took place after the host nation’s 2-0 victory over the United States on Thursday at Canada Hockey Place, although the country’s Olympic committee insisted the matter is now closed as the players have apologised.

Wickenheiser said the incident had been blown out of proportion.

“We were celebrating in our dressing room and it was two hours after the game and we’ve stepped out on the ice and thought nobody would be in the building and I really don’t think it’s a big deal.”

“I think this is so common in sport to celebrate like that and to enjoy the moment, especially in hockey, it’s kind of a tradition. The girls were doing nothing wrong, just taking some pictures,” she added.

Captain says ‘get real’

Wickenheiser denied any members of the team were smokers and when asked about accusations of under-age drinking levelled at 18-year-old Marie-Philip Poulin, she said: “All I have to say is ‘get real, really get real.’ We were enjoying the moment.”

“If you watch any celebration in hockey history, you watch the NHL, the Stanley Cup, there’s champagne in the dressing room and there’s 18-year-olds on the team so I don’t know why this is such a big deal,” she added.

Shannon Szabados, who missed the celebrations because she was in doping control, said: “We were excited about our gold medal and should have kept it within the dressing room but it’s something we’ll learn from.”

Poulin said the team was sorry for what had happened but it would not detract from the joy of winning the gold.

IOC asking questions

Olympic chiefs earlier said they would be writing to the Canadians seeking more details over the incident.

“As far as I understand we are just writing them (the Canadian National Olympic Committee) a letter just to find out a few more details,” said International Olympic Committee (IOC) director of communications Mark Adams.

Speaking about whether the men’s teams would be cautioned as to their behaviour during the rest of the competition, Adams said:

“They all know what is allowed and isn’t allowed, what is appropriate and is not appropriate.”

Michael Chambers, president of the Canadian Olympic Committee, said the players had apologised, and that the matter was at an end.

“The athletes were very swift to express their regrets. It was nothing more than an error of judgement committed at the exciting time of winning a gold medal,” he said.

“As far as we’re concerned the matter is closed. I met with senior IOC members today on other matters and it wasn’t covered.”

Mixed responses from fans

Fans posted their comments on the website of the Globe and Mail newspaper.

“These girls worked harder than you can probably dream. They leave their families and loved ones for long stretches of time and make sacrifice upon sacrifice,” one said.

“This is not slavery and you don’t own them, so don’t go talking about the type of behaviour that you expect.”

But others were critical.

“Congratulations for a well-deserved gold medal. Unfortunately, elements of your win have been diminished slightly by your poor judgment in choosing to celebrate irresponsibly on the ice after your win.”

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