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Team America: Fun Police— Why I Can’t Root For Team USA’s World Cup Team

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There are too many troubling issues on and off the ice to support the USA Hockey’s World Cup team.

Hockey: World Cup of Hockey-Pre Tournament-Team Canada vs Team USA Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Throughout the 2010 Winter Olympics, I was beaming with pride. I clung onto every minute of every game, screaming along with the USA men’s hockey team as they made their surprise run to the gold medal game (before the unspeakable happened).

The 2010 World Junior Championships, I collapsed, then laughed hysterically when John Carlson scored the golden goal for the USA junior team completing a stunning upset of Team Canada.

In 2013, I stayed up weird hours, captivated by John Gibson, Rocco Grimaldi, Jake Trouba, Johnny Goudreau and Seth Jones as they marched to a World Junior title.

I spent 2014 in a hotel room for a hockey tournament, overhearing the entire floor erupt as T.J. Oshie single-handedly beat Russia in a shootout during the Sochi Olympics.

I’m a fan and proud supporter of USA Hockey. I’m a card carrying member as both an amateur player and coach. But I cannot show support, enthusiasm or pride in this 2016 World Cup of Hockey team.

Are you exhausted by folks like me who wont shut up about Patrick Kane? Too bad, I’m not apologizing nor shutting my mouth.

In 2010, Kane was one of my favorite characters in an affable cast of seeming misfits that stunned the hockey world.

Think back; Kane hadn’t won a Stanley Cup yet. He was a top draft pick but still unproven and potentially “too small” and one dimensional. He was new, exciting, someone easy to cheer on if you want electrifying hockey.

Most of all, this was before the “Cinco de Kaner” incident where eye-witness accounts allege him choking a woman, forcing himself upon other women to the point of being forcibly removed and also making anti-Semitic slurs. He had previously assaulted a cab driver in 2009 which was certainly a red flag, but I didn’t see this level of recklessness coming. And of course the utterly disgusting alleged rape of a young woman in Buffalo last summer. The case devolved into a mess after the mother of the alleged victim attempted to plant a tampered rape kit. The case was dropped after the alleged victim exhaustively expressed wanting to move on from the matter. Mind you, the last allegation came after an aggressive campaign by the league to rehabilitate his image and personal life.

No matter the NHL’s effort to rehab him or your readiness to shout ‘innocent until proven guilty’, or simply ignore his off-ice transgressions in favor of his undeniable elite ability, point is, he makes many of the league’s lady fans understandably uncomfortable. He has every right to play, continue to be a great player and be a valuable member of Team USA. But the NHL does not have any obligation to disrespect a significant demographic by making him the face of USA Hockey, including using him in those stupid “Reg Carling” commercials.

Kane has been given chance after chance. I understand the NHL wants a fresh faced, highly skilled, U.S. born player to market its game to. How about one that doesn’t take every additional chance he’s given to build his sense of entitlement and privilege to get away with something worse?

David Backes rescues dogs. Sure he skates like he has a wooden hip but you couldn’t use him to endorse this tournament on ESPN? Ryan Kesler has his cute “Between Two Zambonis” segment he likes to do with teammates. He has a sense of humor. Couldn’t have tried him? Joe Pavelski is the actual damn captain! Put him in the commercials!

WHY KANE?! WHY ALWAYS THE GUY WHO IS BEING ACCUSED OF DOING HORRIBLE THINGS, NHL?!

While rape accusations aren’t much of a problem for USA Hockey and the NHL, not standing for the anthem sure seems to be.

USA head coach John Tortorella’s been spitting TORTS BRAND HOT FIRE all over the media ever since ESPN anchor Linda Cohn made the—well, not really mistake because it’s her job but, you know, now, we’ll never hear the end of it, so kind of a—mistake of asking him about Colin Kaepernick.

Tortorella is entitled to his opinion, we all are in this great land, as you’re entitled to stand or sit during the anthem. Tortorella’s son, Nick is an Army Ranger and I’m certain the emotion of his son being in active duty is lighting the fire under his long charred ass.

Tortorella’s militaristic bravado is nothing new. He’s the last of dying breed of drill sergeant coaches in the NHL. I’m not questioning using current events or invoking a hero like his Army Ranger son to motivate the team.

Who I am questioning is USA Hockey and Los Angeles Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi, who was anything but tough and courageous when former Kings defenseman Slava Voynov savagely assaulted his wife in October 2014.

According to Redondo Beach Police testimony, Voynov pushed her into a television, cutting her, then shoved her to the ground, repeatedly punching and choking her. She required immediate medical attention, including stitches.

Voynov was immediately suspended under the NHL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement. Lombardi, in an affront to both dignity and decency, lent a hand out to his young, abusive asset, sneaking him into a Kings practice. He was fined $100,000 for violating the CBA. I mean, who cares if Voynov covered his bedroom in his wife’s blood, those legs can’t get rusty!

As Voynov continued to go through the legal process, Lombardi publicly expressed concern, but not for the physical and emotional recovery of the victim.

From the Orange County Register,

Lombardi should’ve been fired by the L.A. Kings for his handling of the Voynov situation, instead he remains with the Kings and is now the General Manager of your national hockey team. That’s nothing to be proud of.

Oh and poor Slava? He’s now playing professionally in the KHL because being good at hockey means you’re allowed to nearly beat a woman to death.

Lombardi does bide by some sort of team ethics code however. When former star center Mike Richards was busted at the Canadian border with Oxycodone last summer, his contract was terminated immediately. Lombardi’s decision was contested by the Players’ Association.

In a raw and bizarre statement to the Los Angeles Times, Lombardi called Richards’ arrest “the most traumatic episode of my career” and a tragedy. Yet he offered him Richards no off-ice support in getting substance abuse help. Contrast this to taking a $100,000 fine to get a woman-beater on the ice for a damn practice, then publicly sympathizing for a Voynov.

Between Kane and Lombardi, anything else troubling with USA Hockey’s current status is relatively small. But on the ice, this will not be a fun team to watch.

Brandon Dubinsky? Justin Abdelkader? Jack Johnson? And at one point Ryan Callahan was on the roster before dropping out due to injury though he was replaced by the much better Kyle Palmieri. You wonder where’s Tyler Johnson, Paul Stastny or Bobby Ryan. Players who actually can move the puck through the neutral zone and get shots.

Of course the big snub is Phil Kessel who is only coming off winning a Stanley Cup and being a Conn Smythe finalist. Phil did have to have hand surgery this off-season but was left off the initial roster in March. Hockey’s gatekeepers say Kessel has character issues and isn’t a likable guy in the locker room. You know Dean Lombardi, great judge of character.

If John Tortorella ever asks me if I’m proud to be an American (oh, I bet he would), I’ll tell him, “SIR, YES, SIR!” then salute, but I’d be lying if I said I was proud of this year’s USA Hockey team.

If you’re like me and struggling with this team ethically or the roster itself, go cheer on the twelve fine young Americans on Team North America. I’m certain they’ll make you proud.