Russia's 2010 Winter Olympics Hockey Loss the Latest Blow to Its Game Hopes

Russia's hockey thrashing by Canada the latest blow to its Olympic hopes.

MOSCOW, Feb. 25, 2010 — -- When the regional parliament of the Siberian city of Tomsk convened Thursday morning, the session began with a moment of silence. It wasn't for a death or the anniversary of some event in history but for the lost hopes for Russia's Olympians.

"To our deep regret, the current Olympic Games have brought us more disappointment than joy and pride in our country," the Duma speaker said, according to Russian newspaper Vedomosti.

"The achievements of Russian sportsmen have turned out to be even further from the most pessimistic forecasts," he continued. "I hope that [Vancouver] will be analyzed and lessons will be drawn."

The Russians, who hadn't spent Thursday's predawn hours watching the Russia-Canada men's hockey game, woke up to news of the Russians' thrashing at the hands of the Canadians.

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The game had been billed in Russia, like everywhere else, as a clash of the titans, a battle between two hockey superpowers: Sidney Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin.

So Russia was more than a little disappointed at the 7-3 routing, the first time since 1960 that Canada beat Russia (or the USSR) in Olympic hockey.

"The Red Machine Crashed into the Maple" the headline of the daily Komsomolskaya Pravda shouted Thursday morning.

It was the latest in a string of blows to befall Russia's storied winter Olympics program. Men's hockey was keeping Russian dreams of Olympic glory alive as the gold medals they expected to win went elsewhere.

"For Russians, ice hockey is the most important sport in any Olympics," says Evgeny Chezhegov, a reporter with the Russian sports Web site Sovetsky Sport. "Nobody cares as much about cross-country skiing or figure skating. In hockey it's a personal disappointment."

Russian superstar Ovechkin agreed, telling online newspaper Gazeta that it's the biggest career disappointment for everyone on the team.

Most agree that Canada simply played a better game, and the Russian coach bristled when reporters suggested that his players had partied when they should have been preparing.

"Let's get the guillotine or the gallows out, yeah?" Vyacheslav Bykov told Sovetsky Sport. "We have 35 people in the squad. Let's cut them all up on Red Square."

Russia is currently fifth in the standings, with 13 medals overall, with only three of them gold. Many Russian Web sites, however, choose to rank the countries by gold medals, relegating Russia to a lowly 10th place.

"Anything less than an overall fourth-place finish for the team would absolutely be a failure," Boris Gryzlov, speaker of Russia's State Duma, said last week.

With four days left in the Vancouver Games, there have already been calls for Russian sports officials' heads. The nationalist Liberal Democratic Party has demanded that the head of Russia's Olympic committee and the Minister of Sports step down, along with heads of several of the sports' federations.

"There's been a glitch in Russian sports, and in order to get back on the rails again, we have to look at it as a whole and reboot," a party official told ABC News.

The hockey loss wasn't as crushing as it could have been, because it took place on the other side of the world when most Russians were sleeping, sports columnist Oleg Chikirif said.

"Our mood is a little bit lower [today], but it was already low," he said. "These are the worst games in Russian modern history."

There are still several events in which the Russians can win medals and regain some face, but it's clear where the focus is now.

"They're looking forward to Sochi in 2014," said Chezhegov, when Russia hosts the Winter Games in a Russian resort city on the Black Sea. "Nothing in Vancouver."

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