Each week, The Reporters put their thumbs out to the good and the bad in the world of sports. This week they discuss Russia's men's hockey team, the ineptitude of the IOC handling the Nicklas Backstrom situation, John Tortorella's many apologies, and Canada's strong showing in curling.
Bruce Arthur, National Post
My thumb is down to Russia's national men's hockey program, which is still making reverberations a week after Sochi. After falling in the quarter-finals for the second straight Olympics, Russia's NHL stars came back angry. As Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review wrote, Evgeni Malkin and Alex Ovechkin were unhappy for many reasons, but most of all resented the program's bias towards KHL players, which greatly distorted playing time, pairings, strategy, and felt like a punishment to Russian stars who don't play at home. Russia was one of the world's great hockey powers, and a worthy rival to Canada; now it's a mess, riven by petty rivalries. It's a shame, really. The Russians haven't won a best-on-best tournament since the 1981 Canada Cup, and somehow they feel further away than ever.
Steve Simmons, SUN Media
My thumb is down to the International Olympic Committee for the mess it made of the Nicklas Backstrom gold medal game allergy pill fiasco. As a member of Sweden's hockey delegation said, the IOC destroyed one of the greatest days in Olympic hockey history for the country. Backstrom, who did test positive for pseudo-ephedrine, didn't disagree with that assessment. The IOC first tested Backstrom last Wednesday. In the three days that followed, they never did do a second test. The Swedish team was not informed of Backstrom's status until two hours before game time. Now don't get me wrong, the Swedes could have had Nicklas Backstrom, Ralph Backstrom, and all the Backstroms you can name available for the gold medal game and the result wouldn't have been different. What they didn't need was an unnecessary disruption, born of IOC ineptitude.
Michael Farber, Sports Illustrated
My thumb is down to John Tortorella, not for his most recent apology but for the continual need to apologize. This time, the Canucks coach launched into a mea culpa after saying he favored Sweden in the Sochi final because he wanted his Swedish Olympians - Daniel Sedin and Alex Edler - to return with smiles on their faces. Tortorella wears blinders. Professionally, he sees the small picture, nothing beyond his team. Belatedly, of course, he grasped context - Vancouver … Canada. So four weeks after apologizing for losing his mind between periods against Calgary, he again was at a microphone wearing a hair shirt and a tight expression. That's Tortorella, the never-ending sorry.
Dave Hodge, TSN
My thumb is up to the excellence shown by Canada's Gold-medalists in curling - Jennifer Jones and her rink from Winnipeg and Brad Jacobs and his rink from Sault Ste. Marie. We used to take for granted Canada's worldwide dominance in curling, and then we didn't, because as good as the Canadians continued to be, several other countries showed they were capable of winning world titles. Not that Jones and Jacobs allow Canada to rest on its' laurels, but the Sochi results were very impressive, and how's this for proof of Canada's wealth of curling talent - the Brier is underway in Kamloops and the field is strong with Jeff Stoughton, Kevin Koe, John Morris, and Brad Gushue. And imagine talking about a strong field that doesn't include Jacobs, Glenn Howard and Kevin Martin.