Espionage On Ice: U.S., Russia Classic Sullied By Conspiracy Theories

Who said the Cold War is over? Certainly not the members of the Russian fourth estate, who are still seeing red after last night’s thrilling shootout victory by a team of pesky Americans.

The postgame press conference was loaded with questions aimed at Russian head coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov about some of the sneaky, underhanded tricks the Americans used to snatch victory away from their beloved and beleaguered Russian hockey team.

It all centered around a goal by Fydor Tyutin with 4:40 remaining in the third period, that was reviewed and ultimately waved off because the net was off its moorings. The Russians contend that U.S. goaltender Jonathan Quick purposely dislodged the net, something that was blatantly overlooked by American referee Brad Meier.

By dawns early light Russian papers were filled with stories featuring enough villains and cloak and dagger shenanigans to fill a Tom Clancy novel.

Stay tuned as tomorrow’s issue of Pravda will feature an expose from Boris Badenov accusing Moose and Squirrel of spiking the Russian water bottles with cheap American vodka.

Some Russian players took the high road, while others were quick to take the bait, claiming some sort of grand U.S. conspiracy.

“I don’t know what happened there but it was definitely a goal,” said Russian superstar Alex Ovechkin, who plays in the shadow of CIA headquarters in Washington, D.C.

“Nobody [on the Russian team] touched the net but the goalie touched the net so the net moved [off its mooring]. The referee had to see it. He should have given [Quick] two minutes [for delay of the game].”

And Quick’s Los Angeles Kings teammate Slava Voynov said that’s a trick he’s seen many times back home in LA. Think there won’t need to be some fence mending in the LA locker room once this is all over and players return to their respective NHL locker rooms?

The no goal call was certainly a pivotal play in the game, but the accusations and allegations do a great disservice to what was a terrific hockey game between two strong teams played in an amazing setting.

The atmosphere inside the building was certainly electric, but there were still U-S-A chants that Russian fans respectfully accepted before drowning them out with their own calls of “Ru-she-ah, Ru-she-ah.” There were thousands of Russian flags around the stadium, with a few Stars & Stripes sprinkled in for good measure.

Raise your hand if you think Ovechkin and crew will go gently into that good Russian night?
This team has too much skill and too much riding on these Olympics not to show up when it’s time to hand out the hardware.

But just like in 2010, the U.S. beat Canada in the preliminary round, which plunged the country into a temporary state of mourning before getting a measure of revenge in the gold-medal game. This could very well be just a minor setback for the Russians.

This country is behind their hockey playing heroes, win or tie. The team’s pre-tournament press conference was held in a packed auditorium where Russian journalists stood up and cheered as they took the dais. They gave the team a second standing ovation as they prepared to leave.

There are even Russian journalists wearing Evengi Malkin or Boris Mikhailov sweaters in the press box. Had I known that was the standard dress I would’ve packed my Ray LeBlanc replica jersey

Since their arrival in Sochi, U.S. players have repeatedly been asked if last night’s game could signal a new rivalry, a Cold War 2.0, if you will. That line of questions was something most wanted no part of. Some just laughed it off while others tried to be a little more John Kerry-like and diplomatically brush it aside.

“I don’t think we’re going to go that far,” said U.S. forward David Backes. “It’s great competition. We’ve been up against these guys before and it’s been great battles. But may the best team win.”

The truth of the matter is that the Miracle on Ice has been and will continue to be an important part of USA Hockey history. But that happened 34 years ago. This team is looking to write its own chapter. To put that into perspective, Ryan Miller and Brooks Orpik, the two elder statesmen on this team, were just buns in the oven when the game was played.

But still, without the benefit of an interpreter it is difficult to know if last night’s victory brought back bad memories of Lake Placid. The Russians aren’t quick to talk about 1980, instead focusing on the gold medal they won at the 1984 Olympics in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia. But every once in a while, something slips through the iron curtain of silence and offers up a window into the soul of this great hockey country.

 “As a child, there were three horror films I knew from the West,” Dmitry Chernyshenko, president of the Sochi 2014 organizing committee, said in a speech to IOC officials earlier this week. “One was ‘Nightmare on Elm Street.’ The second one was ‘Friday the 13th.’ And the third one was ‘Miracle on Ice.’ ”

Someone may want to tell Chernyshenko that there were actually nine versions of “Nightmare on Elm Street” and a dozen “Friday the 13th” movies made. But a sequel to “Miracle,” especially on Russian ice, would very likely be the scariest one of all.

User login

Poll

Which big-time hockey event are you most looking forward to this season?: