An apology, and maybe a check, would go a long way toward resolving the dispute over the trashing of Olympic dorm rooms by U.S. hockey players, officials said Wednesday.
The top two leaders of the U.S. Olympic Committee said they were not ready to impose sanctions against the 23 NHL stars on the team and hoped the two or three players responsible for the vandalism still would confess.
USOC president Bill Hybl and executive director Dick Schultz said all their options remained open, including the most severe -- banning all the players from future Olympic teams.
But, the officials said, they were willing to wait a week or two in hopes of cooling the rhetoric and reaching a solution that was fair to all players as well as Olympic organizers in Japan and the United States.
"We want this quiet period to try to find an equitable resolution," Hybl said during a conference call.
Schultz said the refusal of any players to admit responsibility and the subsequent backlash by some committee members for swift, stern punishment had left the two sides "polarized."
"All we are trying to do is create a quiet environment," Schultz said. "People then can think through the situation without a loud level of rhetoric and perhaps we'll be pleasantly surprised with what happens."
The NHL said last week its investigation had been unable to determine just who did an estimated $3,000 damage to three rooms at the Olympic Village in the early morning of Feb. 18, hours after the Czech Republic eliminated the heavily favored U.S. team from the Nagano tournament.
League officials said Tuesday their investigation essentially was closed. Olympic officials have said they believe only two or three players actually were involved in the vandalism.
"We'll wait and see what happenes," said Arthur Pincus, the NHL's vice president for public relations.
Schultz and Hybl have talked of interviewing the NHL players themselves, but they appeared on Wednesday to be more concerned with concluding the case than placing blame.
They said the USOC would seek a "sincere apology" from individual players or the hockey team as a whole. Hybl said that apology should be directed at Nagano organizers, Japanese citizens and the "supporters of the Olympic movement in the United States."
He said some form of restitution from the players, in addition to the $3,000, to cover damages already paid by the NHL through the USOC, would be "appropriate." Schultz, however, said money was not an issue.
"I don't want a situation where it appears the players are trying to buy their way out," the executive director said. "I don't think anyone's backing off. All options are open, including the team (ban) solution."
Schultz and Hybl acknowledged such broad punishment could wind up in court but the USOC was prepared for that.
"You make your decisions based on what you think is the right thing to do," Schultz said. "If it involves court action or arbitration at a later date, then so be it. "
Neither Schultz nor Hybl would set a deadline for action, although the executive director said he was willing to wait a week or two. Hybl said the matter would be discussed at the USOC's board meeting in Portland, Ore., next month.
"We'd like to have it resolved as soon as possible," Hybl said.
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