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Team USA Hockey... Sore Losers?

Some U.S. hockey players trashed their rooms at the athletes' village after being knocked out of the Olympic tournament and the NHL was investigating who was responsible.

The extent of the damage to the rooms in the village was not disclosed in a statement from USA Hockey that said "a few members" of the team were involved in the incident. There were reports that chairs were broken, along with other items.

"There was a mess," International Ice Hockey Federation president Rene Fasel said. "I had information from the U.S. side something happened after the game."

"We believe only a handful of individuals were involved," David Ogrean, USA Hockey executive director, said Friday (Thursday night ET).

"This is an unfortunate incident and one that we deeply regret," Ogrean said. "We apologize to the American delegation and the other members of the 1998 U.S. Olympic Winter Games team for this regrettable situation."

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said the league's vice president of security, Dennis Cunningham, would work with USA Hockey on the investigation.

"Obviously such conduct is unacceptable and will not be tolerated," Bettman said.

Considered at least a silver-medal contender going into the Olympics - the first to feature NHL players - the Americans instead lost 4-1 in the quarterfinals to the Czech Republic on Wednesday.

The U.S. Olympic committee reported that "American athletes damaged village property," according to Mitsuru Katsuoka, media director for the village.

"We received information from the USOC that some athletes did damage to some rooms," Katsuoka said. He said he hadn't inspected the rooms, didn't know how many were damaged or to what extent and didn't know which athletes might have been involved.

Ogrean said the investigation was complicated by the fact that the U.S. players left for home Thursday.

"So many members of the team are gone now," Ogrean said. "It's not as if we have people contained."

U.S. players had demonstrated their willingness to party during the Olympics. Jeremy Roenick led local residents in karaoke numbers and other players stayed out late at a Nagano restaurant last weekend.

Coach Ron Wilson canceled the practice that had been scheduled for Sunday. The next day, the Americans lost to Canada, forcing them to face the talented Czechs.

"Players are going to have fun and do whatever they like to do," U.S. forward Mike Modano said after Wednesday's loss. "If the players play well, everybody forgets about it. If you lose, people will use that as an opportunity to pick at players."

Before the room trashing was known, forward Bill Guerin was asked if the team needed a curfew.

"No. Why should we? We're all grown men," he said. "We know how to handle ourselves."

Brett Hull said the party image was overblown.

"There wasn't a whole bunch of playing around," Hll told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch before the Olympic Village investigation was known.

"I was in bed by 8 at night in eight of the 10 nights I've been here. It was almost ridiculous the amount of time I spent just listening to my CD player, and doing crossword puzzles on my bed."

Most NHL players had extolled the virtues of living in the athletes' village, saying that though it was dorm-like it was part of the Olympic experience.

While here, four to seven players shared small, two- to four-bedroom apartments. Each unit had a tiny common area with a small refrigerator, small table and television set.

Ogrean said there was no truth to speculation that an accident involving Canadian bobsledder Matt Hindle was tied to the hockey players.

Hindle was struck and slightly injured Wednesday by what was described as "pieces of glass" that fell from the sixth floor of the Olympic Village tower.

"I have been told based upon the time it took place and where it took place ... that the incident had nothing to do with the hockey players," Ogrean said. "No connection whatsoever."

© 1998 SportsLine USA, Inc. All rights reserved

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