Team Austria has definitely not fared well in the recent Sochi Olympics. This is obvious not only because the team has not qualified for the quarterfinals. The team has also revealed psychological unpreparedness for the top tournaments. Moreover, many of Austria’s star performers have showed themselves lacking in professionalism, to say the least.
The sports achievements of the Alpine nation in the Sochi ice hockey tournament amount to getting into the Qualification thanks to the team’s only victory against Norway (3:1) in the final game of the Group games. This victory, along with the losses against Finland (8:4) and Canada (6:0) – in which the team inevitably learned a lot – could show the Austrians the way to further success.
But instead a disastrous loss against a neighbor nation Slovenia (4:0) and preceding events plus the following scandalous media coverage turned the whole Olympic spectacle into a disaster for the Austrian ice hockey. Unless the hard lessons are learned from the situation, this can be called lost Olympics for the ÖEHV (Österreichischer Eishockeyverband – Austrian Ice Hockey Union) team.
Here is a short description of the dramatic events, which started two days before the game against Slovenia. Having won the game against Norway the Austrian team went to celebrate at a party thrown by the Austrian House in Krasnaya Polyana near Sochi. The celebration was long, intensive, with lots of alcohol consumption.
Head Coach Manny Viveiros, Chairman of the Austrian Olympic Committee Karl Stoss, Head of the ÖEHV Dieter Kalt, as well as the Olympic team members Robert Lukas and Oliver Setzinger have all blamed the unprofessional behavior of the party boys for the poor performance against Slovenians. Viveiros not only asked for the fans’ forgiveness but acknowledged that he went through sheer shock during the days preceding and following the game. Team Slovenia however, played pretty well against Austria, said Viveiros. Stoss said he had watched the game and wondered why the players looked K.O. during the whole match. Worse than that Lukas meant many of his teammates could hardly skate during the practice following the long and intensive party night. Setzinger offered his resignation from the National team roster in protest.
The star NHL trio consisting of Thomas Vanek, Michael Grabner and Michael Raffl offered their written excuses to the Austrian public, but refused to recognize that their and their teammates’ night adventures resulted in the dramatic loss of the game and of the chances for further Olympic success of their team.
Whether the lost game against Slovenia was a direct consequence of the notorious event or not is unclear. That it had ruining effects on the atmosphere within the squad is, however, beyond any doubts. More than that it revealed the fact that team Austria and its players were mentally unprepared for the tournament of this grade, said Alpo Suhonen, who serves as the sports director with the ÖEHV.
The national hockey union decided not to disclose the names of the people involved in the party. Although it promised to take care that hard consequences would be enacted.
So, will the Austrians bite the dust for the next four years at least? The answer is going to be yes. Unless they manage to win the 2014 IIHF World Hockey Championship in Korea – and thus to take a rematch against Slovenia and advance into the elite of the world ice hockey.