The final four at the Sochi Olympic hockey tournament isn't all that surprising. This was always a five, maybe, six-team tournament. But while other nations like Slovenia, Latvia, and Austria may not have been expected to medal, they were still expected to do their nations proud.
Latvia absolutely did, earning a berth in a quarterfinal and pushing Canada to the brink. Slovenia certainly did, shocking Slovakia for their first Olympic win and then upsetting Austria to reach the quarterfinals.
Austria? Not so much. The country went 1-4, outscored by 12 goals, and failed to make the quarterfinals after a sluggish performance versus Slovenia, a team they were expected to defeated, led to an embarrassing, 4-0 loss.
Why so sluggish? One possible explanation is that the Austrians were tired from partying too hard. After beating Norway to end the group stage, and knowing they had a day off before Slovenia, the players went to the Austria house, and then they hit local club Krasnaya Polyana. They were out until 6 a.m.
It may have had nothing to do with the loss. But you can't rule it out, and when a team looks tired one day after skipping a night of sleep, what are people supposed to think?
Austria is mad.
This match meant the world to the country. This was Austria's first appearance at the Olympics since 2002, and they were relegated from the top division of the IIHF World Championship last May -- by Slovenia. The national pride on the line can hardly be fully expressed. And their players showed up seemingly unready to play.
"We had a real chance to reach the quarterfinals. I don't know why this happened, especially before what is most likely the most important game for modern era Austrian ice hockey. It was a shock what happened after the game against Norway", Austrian head coach Manny Viveiros told the media this afternoon.
Viveiros who trusted his team fully and who didn't want to babysit them as they are grown men and professional athletes added: "I had no idea about it. I was shocked. We knew the players went there (Austria House) to eat something. But it was planned that they return to their rooms right afterwards."
It is not yet clear how many players were involved but Viveiros let no doubt that "there will be consequences" and "we will publish their names in the next days."
But one name has already been thrown under the bus: Thomas Vanek, one of Austria's three NHLers. He was supposed to lead the way, to represent the professionalism it takes to win at this level.
The feeling is that he did not.
The former Sabres captain wore the "C" for Austria, which went 1-4 with a goal differential of minus-12. The Austrians disappeared with a meek 4-0 loss to Slovenia in the elimination round.
"Chose Vanek as team captain to have an experienced player and this obviously went wrong," Austrian Ice Hockey Federation President Dieter Kalt said at a news conference.
Vanek had no goals and just one assist in four games, and before you defend him by pointing out that he was playing for Austria, I remind you that he scored quite a bit with the Buffalo Sabres.
Vanek, along with Michael Raffl and Michael Grabner, apologized to the Austrian people for their conduct, emphasizing that while they don't believe the night out influenced their performance, they understand their position as role models and should have shut things down a lot earlier.
"We are at the end of the day just people who make mistakes," said the release, "and we want to sincerely apologize for the negative impression that may have arisen in the public.
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