Friday, January 7, 2011

Things That Make You Go…

Hmmm…

Now you tell us where you think this story is headed.

This happy lad in the photo at left is part of Team Russia which has just defeated Canada 5-3 to win the 2011 IIHF World U20 Championship in Buffalo, NY. U20 – would be under 20-years-old, so we will assume our Cup hoister is 18- or 19-years-old and happily humming “All I Want For Russian Christmas Is My Two Front Teef.”

Russia overcame a three-goal deficit in the third period to stun Canada 5-3 in the gold-medal game Wednesday night. It was the country's first gold medal since 2003, so a celebration (as under-age as it may have been) seemed in order and likely.

Remember the Cold War…well…things have changed. For the better. And this story is about the Russians learning to “spin” a story in a clever and funny way.

It goes like this.

The kids win the Hockey tournament. They get blasted. They are poured on a bus and taken to the airport where the Delta flight crew tosses them off their 6:10 a.m. flight.

Mikhail Zislis, the team's media officer refutes Delta's claim the group was unruly and accused the crew of overreacting, even after being assured by coach Valeri Bragin (great name huh? “That Val, he’s always braggin!’”) that he'd keep his players under control.

Delta says this, "To ensure the safe operation of the flight, the crew of Flight 1266 denied boarding to 30 passengers who were traveling together and displaying unruly behavior."

Blah, blah, blah.

Zislis claims his players only had champagne in the locker room, but photos show the coaches celebrating with Crown Royal on the ice an hour after the win and Canadian Press video shows the players whooping it up in a hotel bar.

This is conspiracy, yes?

The bus driver who delivered the allegedly over-served celebrating lads, said, “They were definitely intoxicated, that's for sure. They were so drunk they had to carry a couple of the guys onto the bus. I was glad to get rid of them.”

Now in the old days, the Russian authorities would have issued a statement denying everything and blaming everybody else. You know, something about capitalist running dogs doing something untoward to Mother Russia, the righteous homeland.

Well things have changed. A statement posted on the Russian Hockey Federation website said the team would arrive home a day late because it was tardy getting to the airport.

The statement is nothing short of brilliant under the circumstances: "After the success in the final, the guys were overwhelmed by emotion," federation Executive Director Valery Fesyuk's statement said. "Therefore, gathering them took a little more time and the team arrived at the airport with a delay."

And that, ladies and gents, is why Mr. Fesyuk gets paid the big rubles!

After players and managers spent the day at the Days Hotel across the street - where a front desk clerk said they were "sleeping it off" - a team spokesman said the group would fly out in two groups Friday.

You know, after the “delay.”

(Photos by Rick Stewart/Getty Images North America)

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