U.S., Canadian women to face off for gold medal
By Steve Rosenbloom, Chicago Tribune
Posted: Sun February 15, 1998 at 7:03 AM ET
NAGANO, Japan (KRT) -- Both sides are saying hate is too strong a sentiment.
If only they could act like they mean it.
And so, amid bad words and bad blood, the U.S. and Canadian women's Olympic hockey teams will face off for the gold medal Tuesday, a contest recently jolted by charges of indecent behavior.
After the United States launched a stunning six-goal comeback to beat Canada 7-4 in the final round robin contest Saturday, U.S. forward Sandra Whyte sparked a messy scene with Canadian forward Danielle Goyette by pointing at Goyette and making a nasty remark -- in the handshake line, of all places.
Canadian coach Shannon Miller, who summoned U.S. captain Cammi Granato to the bench to discuss the matter after the game, told the Canadian Broadcasting Co. that "a U.S. player said something about Goyette's father. It was uncalled for and Goyette started bawling. That was a big mistake."
Goyette, who refused media requests Sunday, lost her father, Henri-Paul Goyette, 77, two days before the Nagano Games began after suffering from Alzheimer's disease.
Whyte, who refused to address the issue after Saturday night's game, admitted Sunday she said something, but not that.
"Nothing was said about her father," Whyte said. "We have the deepest sympathy for her. It's very difficult for her to be here."
A USA Hockey spokesperson said Saturday night that Whyte admitted that she cursed at Goyette.
"No, I did not," said Whyte, who refused to repeat what she said to Goyette, further muddling the USA Hockey claim that it was all a misunderstanding. "It's not appropriate for me to repeat."
Whyte said she doesn't feel the need to apologize, but expressed regret.
"Of course I do," she said. "I think anytime something is said in the heat of the game, then afterwards it's regrettable. But it happens all over the ice, all through the game."
Maybe it was a misunderstanding, maybe not. Only the two women involved know for sure, and about the only thing we know about this latest version of "she said/she said" is that it captures the depth of the animosity between these teams, especially after they played a 13-game pre-Olympic tour the last five months.
"We've seen so much of Canada," U.S. women's coach Ben Smith said, "we see them in our sleep."
See them everywhere, actually. They always seemed to stay at the same hotels during their pre-Olympic tour. Always seem to have lockers next to each other, too, which is also the case here. And it even extends to the Olympic Village, where the tower housing the U.S. athletes is next to the Canadian wing.
"I know a couple of the players, but I don't go any further than 'Hi,'" U.S. forward Shelley Looney said. "I don't sit down and say, 'What'd you do yesterday?' But we're not going to start a scuffle in the middle of the hallway."
You never know.
"I respect them," Canada's star forward Hayley Wickenheiser said, "but I don't like them."
Right back at you, Wick.
"Until this is over," U.S. center A.J. Mleczko said, "I wouldn't go, 'Hi, how ya' doing? I'm A.J. Let's go get something to drink.' I don't know if I would do it afterward.
"We have some serious history with them. I've been on the U.S. national team since '95 and all we've ever won are silver medals until the Three Nations Cup in December."
A watershed development, indeed. The United States not only beat Canada for the first time in any tournament, but the Yanks shut them out 3-0 in the championship game.
Oh say can you see the gold medal?
"That was the first time they had to hear the Star-Spangled Banner on the medal stand," Mleczko said.
Then came Saturday night, when the teams hit the Nagano ice -- and each other -- to the tune of 48 minutes in penalties, including a 10-minute misconduct for checking from behind and a double-minor for high-sticking, both committed by U.S. players.
"We've played 14 games against them and they were all very physical," said U.S. defenseman Vicki Movsessian, who got the high-sticking penalties for jabbing Goyette in the neck. "But the stakes are a little bit higher now and we're fighting for our country, so obviously the game's going to pick up."
The teams will go into Tuesday's gold medal game having beaten the other seven times with the Americans holding 44-41 edge in goals. It couldn't be more even. Couldn't be simpler, too.
"I'm from the United States," U.S. defenseman Tara Mounsey said. "They're from Canada. We want to beat them. It doesn't get anymore black and white than that."
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