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Published: Saturday, 2/27/2010

Officials will not punish hockey team for celebrating

ASSOCIATED PRESS

VANCOUVER - Carry on, ladies.

Canada's top Olympic official sees no reason to put a damper on the women's hockey team's beer-swigging, cigar-smoking celebration of its gold-medal victory over the U.S. team.

In Whistler and Vancouver, Olympic sentiment largely supported the players who went back onto the ice for an impromptu party well after the fans had left Canada Hockey Place on Thursday.

While the players spent much of yesterday apologizing for their exuberance, several top Olympic officials praised the Canadians' third straight gold-medal run, even while encouraging them to be a bit more discreet next time.

"As far as we're concerned, the matter is closed," said Michael Chambers, president of the Canadian Olympic Committee. "It was nothing more than an error of judgment committed at the exciting time of winning a gold medal."

Other Olympians playfully wondered aloud what they could do to top the Canadian women's fiesta, which included players pouring drinks into each other's mouths, climbing on an ice-resurfacing machine and posing in front of Olympic logos with booze and stogies in hand - all with gold medals dangling from their necks.

"We were hoping that celebration would stay private," forward Caroline Ouellette said. "We're very sorry if we may have offended some Canadians, but for some of our girls, it's the last time they'll ever skate at the Olympics. It's a tradition for our team. To go back on that ice and kiss it and take a picture is something special."

The International Olympic Committee said it would send a letter to Canadian organizers asking for more details about what happened, but was careful not to characterize the response as an investigation.

Asked whether a men's team would face the same scrutiny in a similar situation, goalie Shannon Szabados said: "I don't think so at all. When you're watching the Stanley Cup, they're all drinking champagne out of it."

Vancouver organizing chief John Furlong said it was simply a matter of "young kids who were happy."

Well over an hour after the Canadians beat the Americans 2-0 and were given their gold medals, 14 players returned to the ice still in their uniforms. Some wore wacky sunglasses and smoked cigars, while almost all were drinking beer or champagne.

Although the Canadians say they enjoy similar celebrations after most major international victories, including the Turin Games, they hadn't been given much occasion to party after losing the previous two world championships to the Americans. They certainly enjoyed the once-in-a-lifetime chance to win a gold medal at home, though.



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