- The Washington Times - Friday, February 26, 2010

VANCOUVER, British Columbia | In a sport Canada invented, nothing less than gold would do. And when the women’s hockey team had it in hand, the joy and champagne overflowed.

The players stormed back onto the ice half an hour after beating the United States 2-0 on Thursday and staged a raucous celebration — smoking cigars and swigging beer and bubbly.

Haley Irwin poured champagne into the mouth of Tessa Bonhomme, gold medals swinging from both their necks. Meghan Agosta and Marie-Philip Poulin posed with goofy grins.

Goalies Charline Labonte and Kim St-Pierre posed at center ice for Poulin, lying on their stomachs with a giant bottle of champagne resting just above the Olympic rings.

Rebecca Johnston actually tried to commandeer the ice-resurfacing machine.

Poulin, who scored both goals for Canada, doesn’t turn 19 — legal drinking age in British Columbia — until next month. The drinking age in Alberta, where the Canadian team trains, is 18. Photos showed Poulin on the ice with a beer in her hand.

Gilbert Felli, the IOC’s executive director of the Olympic Games, said the antics were “not what we want to see.”

“If they celebrate in the changing room, that’s one thing,” he said, “but not in public.”

In a statement released late Thursday, Hockey Canada apologized.

“The members of Team Canada apologize if their on-ice celebrations, after fans had left the building, have offended anyone,” the statement said. “In the excitement of the moment, the celebration left the confines of our dressing room and shouldn’t have. The team regrets that its gold medal celebration may have caused the IOC or COC any embarrassment.

“Our players and team vow to uphold the values of the Olympics moving forward and view this situation as a learning experience.”

IOC spokesman Mark Adams said earlier that the players were asked to return to the ice to have photos taken. “We understand that some people may have felt that their behavior was over-exuberant,” he said.

Steve Keough, a spokesman for the Canadian Olympic Committee, said it was “quite an emotional moment for our team” and added: “It was not our intention to go against any IOC protocols.

“In terms of the actual celebration,” he said, “it’s not exactly something uncommon in Canada.”

Not even uncommon at these Olympics. After Jon Montgomery won a gold medal for Canada in skeleton, he walked through the streets of Whistler guzzling from a pitcher of beer that he gripped with two hands.

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