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No changes planned
USA Hockey won't bring back amateurs for 2002 Games
Posted: Friday June 12, 1998 07:38 PM
DENVER (AP) -- USA Hockey, still stinging from a lamentable Olympic performance by American NHL players on and off the ice, will not hear a proposal calling for amateurs to return to the rink.
The proposal had been on the agenda for Saturday's USA Hockey board of directors meeting in Colorado Springs but was removed Friday after informal discussions throughout the week, USA Hockey executive director David Ogrean said Friday.
"When we first hit town here, we had intentionally scheduled an open forum so that people could discuss it," Ogrean said. "We knew that it needed to be sort of a catharsis.
"There was a lot of frustration about it, and people had to just get stuff off their chest. That has happened. It has calmed down. Folks said, `Hey, let's just get it behind us.' "
Team USA, made up of 23 NHL players, drew heavy criticism in February for its disappointing Olympic performance on the ice in Nagano, Japan, and a few players' behavior in the Olympic Village afterward.
Within hours of being eliminated by the Czech Republic in the February 17 quarterfinals, a small group of as yet unnamed American players caused $3,000 in damage to three dorm rooms housing the American athletes.
No players ever came forward admitting the vandalism, but team captain Chris Chelios of the Chicago Blackhawks sent Japanese Olympic officials an apology and a check to cover the damages.
In March, Glenn Hefferan, director at-large for USA Hockey's Atlantic District, proposed that Team USA be made up of amateurs for the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City.
Hefferan was in a meeting Friday afternoon and could not immediately be reached for comment.
Several steps remain before NHL players are again cleared to play in the Olympic Winter Games. The International Ice Hockey Association, the NHL and the NHL Players Association must determine whether the NHL season will take another hiatus to allow hundr eds of players to skate for their countries.
Although NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said earlier this week that it is too early to make a decision, he and Ogrean agreed that Salt Lake City will make life much easier on the players.
"It's just going to be so much different when instead of having to worry about having a 24-hour trip from the West Coast to Japan, you can just say, `Hey, Brian Leetch, hop on the plane in New York and take the Delta nonstop to Salt Lake.' You're there i n three hours," Ogrean said.
International Olympic Committee president Juan Antonio Samaranch last month dispelled the notion that NHL players would not be welcome in Salt Lake City, and Ogrean is confident the NHL will continue to be a part of the Olympics.
"The approach that most people took was that post-Nagano would be at best a mid-term report card," he said. "You wouldn't put a real grade on the whole partnership until after Salt Lake City.
"I would expect that what was started in Nagano will continue in Salt Lake City and then we'll see if it's had the kind of positive impact on the game, especially in North America, that everyone had hoped."
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