Russian hockey team knows ‘whole country is behind us’



SOCHI, Russia — The entire Russian men’s hockey team held a press conference Tuesday at the Main Media Center. You’ll forgive the blurriness of the image, but I wanted you to see the set-up, because it was meant to be symbolic. This is a team, the Russians wanted to demonstrate. It wasn’t just a handful of superstars, and some other guys.

In the middle was legendary goalie Vladislav Tretiak, now the president of the Ice Hockey Federation of Russia. Vice captain Alex Ovechkin sat to the right of coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov, who sat to the right of Tretiak. Captain Pavel Datsyuk, along with vice captains Evgeni Malkin and Ilya Kovalchuk, were also front and center. The rest were up there for a show of solidarity. It was extremely unlikely they were ever going to talk.

“I think all of us here together decided to appear at this press conference as a team because we want to show we are one team,” said Tretiak via interpreter. “It is a team sport and it is up to the entire team to get the gold, and that is why we are here together to talk to you.”

As expected, the big names got the questions. Occasionally, the Russian press corps and volunteers broke into applause, which is something you don’t see in North America.

“We do believe that as now we are playing on the home turf we will have even more brothers,” Datsyuk said via interpreter. “The whole country is behind us.”

It’s worth mentioning at this point that if you had to pick the two most famous losses in Russian hockey history, you’d probably pick the 1972 Summit Series versus Canada and the 1980 Winter Olympics, where they were shocked by the United States.

Related: Are expectations too high for Russia?

That ’80 Miracle on Ice team has been celebrated as one of the greatest teams — in the truest sense of the word — ever. And Tretiak said today that the underdog Americans taught the Soviets an important lesson about respecting one’s opponent.

As for ’72 , here’s what Canadian hero Paul Henderson once said about the heavily favored Canadian squad that had to pull together and battle back versus the Soviets: “I would say that at the start of that [series], we really weren’t a team, we were a bunch of individuals. But as the series went on, we became a team. And even today, guys that never played a game feel every bit as much a part of the team as guys who played all eight games.”

That kind of bond is what the Russians are hoping to build here in Sochi. The other teams are hoping for that too, of course, but given the number of times the “Not a team player” label has been attached to the likes of Ovechkin, Kovalchuk, Radulov, and so many other star Russian players in the modern era, it will be especially interesting to see how this group comes together.

“When we lost to the Canadians [in 2010], it was a big blow to us, a big failure, a big blow to everyone in Russia,” Ovechkin said via interpreter.

On Thursday versus Slovenia, the quest for redemption moves from the dais to the ice.

Michael Phelps: I had to keep marriage ‘hush-hush’

FILE - In this Aug. 9, 2016, file photo, United States' swimmer Michael Phelps celebrates winning his gold medal in the men's 200-meter butterfly with his fiance Nicole Johnson and baby Boomer during the swimming competitions at the 2016 Summer Olympics, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The Arizona Republic reported Oct. 26, 2016, that Phelps and Johnson secretly married on June 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum, File)
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Michael Phelps said Thursday that he had to keep his June marriage to Nicole Johnson “hush-hush.”

Phelps and Johnson, who got engaged in February 2015, were married June 13, though Phelps had been saying all summer and into the fall that they were not yet married.

“You guys probably already saw the article that was posted [about the marriage],” Phelps said, widening his eyes and sticking the tip of his tongue out while golfing shirtless with former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis. “I’ve been married for a while, been married for while, couple months. I had to keep it secret from y’all. I had to keep it hush-hush from you guys. Nicole and I are married. We are officially married.”

Phelps and Johnson welcomed baby boy Boomer on May 5.

“Why is it a secret? Just because. … Baby No. 2 may be coming soon, who knows though,” Phelps said.

VIDEO: Phelps in ‘Call of Duty’ trailer

Karolyis named in lawsuit against ex-USA Gymnastics doctor

In a July 15, 2008 photo, Dr. Larry Nassar works on the computer after seeing a patient in Michigan. Multiple gymnasts, including a member of the 2000 U.S. women's Olympic team, said they were sexually abused by Nassar, a former longtime doctor for USA Gymnastics, court documents and interviews show. (Becky Shink/Lansing State Journal via AP)
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — A former gymnast on the U.S. women’s national team is the latest athlete to accuse a longtime team doctor of sexual abuse.

But she’s the first to allege renowned husband-and-wife coaches Bela and Martha Karolyi knew about the abuse and did nothing to stop it.

The lawsuit filed Thursday in Los Angeles contends Dr. Larry Nassar repeatedly sexually abused the now-24-year-old gymnast when she was on the team from 2006 to 2011.

It says the Karolyis, and the current and former presidents of USA Gymnastics knew of molestations committed by Nassar before and during his employment, “yet chose to allow him to remain unsupervised,” allowing further abuse.

Nassar’s lawyer and the Karolyis didn’t respond to messages Thursday. Nassar’s lawyer has previously denied abuse allegations by two other gymnasts.

USA Gymnastics is also named in the suit. The Indiana-based governing body denies wrongdoing.

MORE: Michigan State fires Nassar after sexual abuse accusations