The Americans left their marks on the Olympics after bowing out to Hasek and the Czechs 4-1 in the quarterfinals. According to the Nagano Olympic Organizing Committee (NAOC), the marks were about $3,000 worth. The vandalism in three apartments occupied by U.S. players in the Olympic Village, the NAOC said, included an eight-inch hole in a door as well as damage to one desk, two beds (one smashed into two pieces) three fire extinguishers (one tossed over a fifth-floor balcony) and 10 folding chairs (three tossed over the balcony), although contrary to initial reports, none of those chairs beat U.S. goalie Mike Richter through the five hole. The USOC initially estimated the damage to be about $1,000, a figure that the NHL officials agreed with. Three thousand? One thousand? What's the difference?
USA Hockey, the USOC and the NHL all said they were investigating the vandalism. But more reprehensible than the rowdiness, which provided an unwanted 4 a.m. wake-up call for some American speed skaters who were competing that day, was the need for an investigation. The failure of the sleuthing to quickly uncover the evildoers—Keith Tkachuk of the Phoenix Coyotes was a primary suspect, according to a highly placed hockey source—or of any perpetrator to own up to the vandalism prolonged the discussion of an incident that tarred all the American players, their country, their league, their sport. Come now, gentlemen. You all couldn't have been chipping golf balls on the lawn while waiting for the limo driver when this unfortunate business occurred.
Even before the U.S.'s abrupt quarterfinal exit and Tkachuk's memorable assessment after that match that the games were "the biggest waste ever," the Americans were not doing themselves proud. They skipped the U.S. women's gold medal hockey game against Canada (three players showed up for the middle of the match) because of a team dinner—the Canadian men attended en masse—and while they did take in some of the sights, they weren't exactly overrunning the curling venue. There is a gaijin hangout in Nagano named Thirtys mat offered bad pizza and a terrific view of U.S. captain Chris Chelios and Brett Hull at 5 a.m. after the 5-2 win over Belarus on Feb. 14, the Americans' lone victory. (The U.S. was outscored by a combined 12-4 in its other games, against Sweden, Canada and the Czech Republic.) Hull said the evening was an aberration. "Eight nights out of the 10," Hull said after the loss to Canada, "I've been in bed by eight."
"A.m. or p.m.?" wondered Steve Yzerman, one of Canada's alternate captains.
This was no time to be an American, especially for Samuelsson. He was kicked out of the tournament when a reporter for a Stockholm newspaper, Svenska Dagbladet, discovered that Samuelsson had obtained a U.S. passport three years ago, which, under a Swedish law, obliges him to renounce his Swedish citizenship. Samuelsson, the chippy New York Rangers defenseman, is used to breaking the rules only on the ice, and he cried when the International Ice Hockey Federation said he was ineligible. Samuelsson, who arrived with what he assumed was a valid Swedish passport—with an expiration date of Aug. 23, 1998—left Japan flashing that same passport to officials at Tokyo's Narita Airport. The stunned Swedes then meekly bowed out 2-1 to the eventual bronze medalist, Finland.
"For anybody to suggest this was a good or bad thing because of how the United States or Canada fared, if your view was that this was all about having the U.S. win a gold medal, you didn't believe us when we said this was going to be a dream tournament and not a Dream Team," Bettman said. "You can't do something of this magnitude, you can't try to make the game grow, if your objective is to simply focus on one team winning."
Was it worth it? Well, remember the Czechs piling on Hasek after the final horn on Sunday and ponder the euphoria that wreathed Hasek's face when Samaranch hung a gold medal around his neck. Then imagine the sight of 70,000 people in Prague's Wenceslas Square watching that game on a giant screen and the throngs that greeted the Czech players' charter flight when it landed for a brief celebration before whisking some of them back to their night jobs in the NHL. Tell them it wasn't worth it.