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Gretzky moved to tears as Russia beats Canada 2-0

23 February 2006

A teary-eyed Wayne Gretzky couldn't stand to watch any longer, heading to the exit in the final minute. Tagging along was yet another Canadian Olympic hockey failure - one that the Great One blamed on himself.

Alexander Ovechkin scored the pivotal first goal early in the third period and Russia's youngsters upstaged Gretzky's hand-picked old pros, winning 2-0 wednesday (Day 12) in the Olympic men's quarterfinals to end another disappointing Olympics for the country that invented the sport.

"This is special, very special, for our country," Ovechkin said.

Not for Canada, it wasn't. The Canadians arrived in Torino last week amid the distraction caused by executive director Gretzky's link to an alleged sports gambling ring and will leave it with doubts about his personnel decisions. Doubts he himself seems to be having.

Before the games, Gretzky said he would be blamed if Canada lost because of the gambling probe. He will, too but mostly for the decision to send ageing legs to a tournament that requires the gold medallist to play eight games in a demanding and energy-draining 12 days.

"I'll take all, deservedly so, the responsibility for not winning," Gretzky said. "That's the position I'm in and the responsibility I have."

Gretzky steered Canada to its first gold medal in 50 years in 2002, so he decided to go with a similar cast of veterans and old reliables in Torino rather than NHL youngsters.

This time they'll head home again with no medal for the second time in the last three Olympics.

Ask why he left his private box with 33 seconds left, Gretzky said, his eyes red with tears, "I wanted to change our luck."

The Canadians needed a lot more than luck, the way the Russians were skating through them, generating rush after rush and controlling the tempo. Russia defenceman Darius Kasparaitis said the kids were the difference, especially Ovechkin, the top candidate for the NHL rookie of the year award with the Washington Capitals and soon-to-be-superstar.

"It's nobody else's fault," Gretzky said.

"I thought coming in, they were probably the most talented team," Gretzky said. "The Russian team was better than we were tonight. There's no excuse about that."

The loss rivalled that 2-1 defeat to the gold medallist Czech Republic in Nagano in 1998, when Gretzky wasn't chosen for the decisive shootout.

"Maybe this is a little tougher," Gretzky said. "(But) is this the end of Canada hockey? No, we'll be back."

Alan Robinson
AP

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