Infamous Winter Olympians: 1998 U.S. men's hockey team
Hotel vandalism overshadows on-ice performance
The Olympic Games have always been a setting for inspirational acts of athleticism, where sacrifice and hard work are the norm. But there are a few Winter Olympians who have set themselves apart from their fellow athletes through less traditional means. The 1998 American men’s hockey team is one of those rare cases, a team that left its most indelible mark on the Nagano Games not on the ice, but in its hotel rooms.
The Nagano Olympics marked the very first time that NHL players were allowed to compete at the Olympics, meaning teams stacked with professional players seemed to have a distinct advantage at taking home a medal. Well, things didn’t turn out that way for some of those teams, including the American contingent.
They managed to win only one game, and were eliminated by the Czech Republic team in the quarter finals:
The U.S. team then experienced a moment that couldn’t possibly be any further removed from this triumph 18 years earlier:
No, there would be no “Miracle on Ice,” but just a loss that seemed to spur the American players to vandalize their hotel rooms in the Athletes’ Village – and leave Japan with a reputation for being poor sports.
They broke 10 chairs and emptied three fire extinguishers – with six of those chairs and one extinguisher thrown from a fifth-floor window and to the courtyard below. No names were named, although some involved with the American team chastised those involved.
Others, such as then-NHL Players’ Association executive director Bob Goodenow, downplayed the incident: "This wasn't nearly as bad as people are making it out to be,” Goodenow told The Associated Press. "I saw it. Some folding chairs got broken. They were weak and break when you lean back on them."
American forward Doug Weight also brushed off the allegations.
"As for the broken chairs, we're big guys and the chairs aren't real strong and some of them had been broken since we got here just from sitting on them to play cards. We weren't throwing furniture," Weight said.
Despite the brush-offs, the incident was poorly received by other Olympians as well as Team USA General Manager Lou Lamoriello, who told the Newark Star-Ledger that the players "should be ashamed of themselves."
"I'm upset. I'm appalled to hear something like that," Lamoriello said. "I don't condone it. I can't accept it.
“There is no reason to do anything like that. If they were disappointed, think of all the fans who were disappointed.”
USA Hockey and the NHL volunteered to repay the damages, estimated to be $3,000 US.