A Hockey `Dream Tournament'?

With NHL's help, pros could boost Olympic team play

BASKETBALL had its Olympic ``Dream Team,'' but United States hockey team coach Tim Taylor says his sport could put on a ``Dream Tournament'' with the full involvement of the National Hockey League. The difference is that using NHL pros - many of whom are foreign citizens - would benefit other teams in the competition. In basketball, the US team was the major beneficiary of the National Basketball Association's unrestricted entry into the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

The catch is that hockey is a winter Olympics sport and basketball a summer one. Consequently, the NBA can afford to be cooperative, since its season usually does not conflict with the Olympics the way the NHL's does.

Given this dilemma and the desire by some to see all the world's best hockey players participate in the Olympics, there are probably only two options: 1) switch hockey to the summer Games, where they began in 1920, or 2) get the NHL to create a three-week break in its season every fourth year.

The latter alternative may be the more realistic. The revenue the NHL might lose by temporarily shutting down would probably be offset by the invaluable exposure that professional hockey would receive from an Olympic ``Dream Tournament.'' It could catapult the sport to new heights of international popularity.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman no doubt is keenly aware of what the Olympic showcase has meant to the NBA, for which he once worked. Bettman has been taking in the Olympics here in Norway and mulling over the possibilities of greater NHL participation in them, one suspects.

Nordic history, revised

While Bill Koch's silver medal in the 30-kilometer cross-country race at the 1976 Innsbruck Games is often viewed as a solitary American achievement in Olympic Nordic competition, a closer examination reveals it is not.

Anders Haugen was the third-place ski jumper at the original Winter Olympics in 1924, only no one knew it at the time because of an error in the scoring. Haugen never mounted the medals podium. Fifty years later, however, a researcher discovered the scores had been incorrectly added up, and Haugen deserved to be third, not fourth. In 1974, at the age of 83, he was finally presented the bronze medal in Oslo.

Once around lightly

* American speed-skater Bonnie Blair has made it no secret that she's pleased this year's Olympic medals are made of granite with gold, silver, or bronze rims. Two years ago in France she took home two golds made mostly of crystal and worries that she's going to break them some day.

* Imagine the surprise of meeting a Lillehammer store clerk with a touch of Texas in her clearly American voice. One local sports shop has hired just such a woman, a native of Norway who spent the past 30 years in the Lone Star State.

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