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USA Hockey apologizes to Bobby Ryan, admits Brian Burke controversy caught it off-guard

Greg Wyshynski
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When David Poile discussed the U.S. Olympic team after the Winter Classic, the emphasis was on which players made the cut rather than the ones that did not.

But while he was speaking to the media, many members of the media were already consuming Scott Burnside’s blow-by-blow account of the U.S. selection process, including caustic comments about Ottawa Senators winger Bobby Ryan.

Burke called out his lack of intensity and lazy skating, claiming he wouldn’t have drafted him if he had to do the 2005 selection over again. Ryan responded that Burke’s comments were “gutless” and “degrading.”

Poile, in a previously scheduled conference call on Friday morning, apologized to Ryan. From Helene Elliott of the LA Times:

“I apologize as much as I can,” Poile said. “As far as anything to denigrate any player, that was not what any of us signed up for. ... What goes on in a dressing room should stay in a dressing room. Unfortunately, this was just a little bit too much.

“For the umpteenth time, I totally apologize to Bobby Ryan on behalf our staff, which includes Brian Burke, who was absolutely the biggest supporter of Bobby Ryan on our staff.”

But more revealing was the fact that USA Hockey didn’t understand what putting two journalists in the room for their selection process might yield:

Poile said USA Hockey welcomed Burnside and Allen’s presence in an effort to popularize the game and was “happy to have them part of our team, if you will.” Poile also said Team USA executives believed they had the right to prevent publication of objectionable comments -- as with their control over material in HBO’s "24/7" series -- and that Burke had included Ryan’s name on Burke’s suggested final roster.“Unfortunately the comments were a little harsh,” Poile said. “The problem that we had with a communication breakdown that happened there was we thought this was similar to a '24/7' situation where we had editorial review on what was going to be said. It caught all of us off-guard. And again, that’s on us.”

Kudos to Poile for standing up and recognizing the titanic screw-up USA Hockey made here: If not allowing journalists to transcribe what amounts to a large-scale arbitration hearing, but for not ensuring they had some editorial control over the final product. How they didn't quite get that on-the-record criticism of players wouldn't make publication, we'll never quite understand.

For that level of unprecedented access, that would have been expected. Then it’s up to the journalists on whether they wanted to still play ball.

In any event, hopefully this closes the chapter on the snubs. Until, of course, the U.S. loses its first one-goal game.

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