The tenderloin district of Turin is just south of Dominik Hasek's belt buckle, a locale of great interest among the hockey cognoscenti who are familiar with the history of the Dominator's wonky groin. The good news is Hasek's groin is fine. The bad news is there was a loud pop, emanating from his left hamstring, after he hurt himself making a save in the first period of the Czech Republic's 4-1 victory over Germany.
As Tomas Vokoun skated on to replace Hasek, Ottawa police rushed to Senators general manager John Muckler's house in order to confiscate his belts and shoelaces.
He wasn't there. Muckler was in Florida, calling to find out where Hasek is going -- and if he is taking the 2006 Stanley Cup with him.
"I don't know, maybe because of the flight," said Hasek, who is scheduled to undergo an MRI to see if his hamstring is torn or merely pulled. "I don't have an explanation. It's very sad."
There you have the Olympic dilemma: too much travel, too little time to adapt, too many games.
When Hasek goes down for a game, if not the count, the support for the Olympics in the NHL plummets in lockstep. Muckler hated sending his goalie, who has a history of groin injuries longer than his arm, to Turin. You think Muckler feels better about the situation today just because it's a hammy?
The Olympic tournament throws them all together in this icky stew, at least the players drawn from the NHL pool. Consider the situation facing the Americans: If the U.S. makes the gold medal game on Feb. 26, its players will have flown a minimum of six time zones east and will have played eight of the most intense games imaginable in a 12-day period. Then they will be asked to vamoose back to their night jobs in the NHL, recommence a six-week sprint toward the playoffs and then, for many, start weeks and weeks of arm-wrestling for Lord Stanley's mug. Anybody who puts himself through that deserves a medal, although not necessarily a gold one. There is not enough time, especially for those Olympians from Vancouver and Minnesota who were not excused to represent their countries until after a match that started just after 7 p.m., local time, last Sunday.
The scheduling is emblematic of the NHL's twisted relationship with the Olympics. Since NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman used moral suasion with reluctant NHL owners to convince them to send their players to Nagano in 1998 -- and extended the pre-lockout CBA in order to do it -- the support for the league's presence at the Games has become oatmeal soft.