"Looking back on it, we probably should have brought healthier players. And it really put us in a bind. We were barely able to ice a team for a couple of those games late, because we were so banged up. Guys were trying to play, but they really struggled." -- Ken Hitchcock
The Canadian men's hockey team's 2-0, quarterfinal ouster at the hands of the Russians during the 2006 Olympics wrote a merciful end to the story of a strangely emotionless squad that was only able to score in one of its final 12 periods of play.
Torino, to the country's great embarrassment, would be the first Games since 1988 in which Canada would not complete for a medal. The criticism was swift and damning.
"An epic disaster . . . a colossal failure," wrote one critic.
"Losing at hockey is always an option," said another, "but not one Canada really likes to excuse, especially when $97 million worth of hockey talent gets blanked, shut out, skunked in three of its last four games of a lost Olympics."
Ken Hitchcock's theory? Misplaced loyalty.
"The biggest mistake we made? Two things," said Hitchcock, one of three associate coaches to head man Mike Babcock during the Canadian Men's 2010 Olympic Orientation Camp.
"First of all, we didn't prepare for the loss of players, as far as the next wave. We didn't look close enough at the next wave, and we lost a lot of guys.
"The second part, for me, was, we took over players who were really banged up," added Hitchcock, who also was an associate coach for Canada's 2002 and 2006 Olympic efforts. "And they were really banged up after two games. And that was a mistake.
"Looking back on it, we probably should have brought healthier players. And it really put us in a bind. We were barely able to ice a team for a couple of those games late, because we were so banged up. Guys were trying to play, but they really struggled."
Defenseman Chris Pronger, for one, played with a cracked bone in his foot in Italy.
"When you look at how they played after they went back, a lot of guys really struggled to get even close to where they were before," Hitchcock said. "We had two players who basically went from ice bucket, to skate, to playing. And that was tough on those guys.
"It was a tough evaluation, because they were trying to help us. They knew we were short-staffed, especially at the back end, and they were still trying to play."