A Cold Winter For Russian Hockey

The Olympics present amazing narratives of individuals overcoming tremendous obstacles on their way to peak performances and medal ceremonies.

And team accomplishments can rally entire nations, creating outpourings of nationalistic fervor.

But sometimes Olympic dreams can turn into nightmares, as happened to the Russian men’s hockey team in Sochi last week. With as much talent as any team in the field, expectations for the team on home ice were extremely high.

The Russian people expected this club to erase the embarrassment of the previous two Olympic tournaments, where their team failed to medal.

More than one Olympic analyst said Russians could not regard the Olympics a success without a hockey medal, and preferably a gold one.

But after losing to team USA in a shootout, the Russians limped to the quarterfinals, where they were outplayed by Finland 3-1 and eliminated from the tournament.

To understand the damage inflicted on the Russian psyche, imagine the U.S being ousted from the Olympics in basketball. The Russians’ long history of success make them feel hockey is their sport.

The government promised each Russian medalist a cash prize, with gold medalists receiving $130,000. There will be no such rewards for hockey players this year, and you can expect a serious shakeup in the Russian Olympic hockey federation, including a number of coaches and staff being replaced.

Worse than the losses suffered was the damage to Russian pride, and it is four long years before they get a shot at redemption, or even one in a shootout.

* The NFL recently has suffered a couple of public-relations disasters as former New Orleans Saints Super Bowl safety Darren Sharper is about to be tried on sexual assault charges – that he serially molested women after drugging them. What makes it worse is that Sharper has been an outspoken advocate for protecting women from violence. In fact, he’s reportedly met some of the women at events supporting women against violence, allegedly assaulting them later on those days.

The arrest of Baltimore Ravens star running back Ray Rice for domestic abuse involving his fiancée has been exacerbated by video of Rice dragging his unconscious girlfriend from an Atlantic City casino hotel.

While Sharper is retired and beyond the reach of the league, Rice is not only active, but in the prime of his career.

If he is convicted or pleads guilt to any of the charges, expect commissioner Roger Goodell to act swiftly to punish Rice. Goodell usually has reacted harshly toward players who negatively affect the NFL “shield.”

He clearly will not tolerate violence against women or even the bullying shown to be rampant in at least the Miami Dolphins locker room.