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IOC rep downplays women's hockey party

An International Olympic Committee spokesman said Friday that no formal investigation is planned into the on-ice party held by members of Canada's gold-medal-winning women's hockey team.

Hockey Canada apologizes for party on ice

An International Olympic Committee spokesman said Friday that no formal investigation is planned into the on-ice party held by members of Canada's gold-medal-winning women's hockey team.

Mark Adams told a briefing Friday, a day after the Vancouver Games hockey final, that he wasn't sure how a story spead that a formal investigation was underway.

Adams said Hockey Canada had already apologized for the incident, and that the IOC was just seeking clarification on how it happened.

"To be honest I think people are in search of a story that doesn't exist," said Adams. "There were pictures all over the front pages and so on this morning, and I think people are looking for someone to say it's terrible.

Marie-Philip Poulin, left, Kim St-Pierre, middle, and Charline Labonte drink on the ice after the Canadian women's team defeated the U.S. in Thursday's gold-medal game. ((Scott Gardner/Canadian Press))

"At the moment, we just are going to write a letter and I guess we will just be asking for some clarifications, some explanation of what occurred. For the time being, until that letter is written and a response is got, I can't really comment any further."

The players drank cans of beer and bottles of champagne, and smoked cigars with their gold medals draped around their necks on the ice surface at Canada Hockey Place after their 2-0 win over the U.S. on Thursday night.

Among those drinking were Quebec City's Marie-Philip Poulin, the youngest player on Team Canada and its fourth-line centre, who scored twice in the first period. The 18-year-old Poulin turns 19 next month, but right now would be under the legal drinking age in B.C.

"I'm really sorry for what happened," she said. "I think we just wanted to enjoy the moment and that's just what happened. And it won't happen again. We've learned from that. We're just going to enjoy that medal right now."

Some members of the team commented publicly on Friday.

Captain Hayley Wickenheiser said the players took to the ice two hours after the game ended — although that lengthy time period is disputed by others — and that there was a double standard at work.

Wickenheiser said if it were a men's team, there wouldn't be a hint of controversy.

"I don’t brush it off, the underage [part] and being on the ice," said Wickenheiser. "Those things maybe could have been done different. But at the same time, it’s celebrating, it’s hockey, it’s a tradition we do. When we see a Stanley Cup winner, we see them spraying champagne all over the dressing room, you see 18-year-old kids there and nobody says a thing."

Goalie Shannon Szabados, who earned the shutout in the gold-medal game, was a bit more conciliatory in her comments.

"We did a poor job keeping it out of the public eye," said Szabados. "It was more of a team celebration that we kind of got caught up in, something we definitely didn’t want to get out. We’re supposed to be role models for young players growing up. It’s unfortunate, but it’s something that we’ll have to deal with and regret happening.

"It’s unfortunate we come here today and instead of talking about our gold medals, we’re talking about the on-ice celebrations. But we brought it on ourselves."

Canada's Jayna Hefford (16) and Gillian Apps (10) pose for pictures during the team's post-game, on-ice celebration. ((Chris O'Meara/Associated Press))

Steve Keough, a spokesman for the Canadian Olympic Committee, said the COC had not provided the alcohol, nor instructed the players to celebrate on the ice.

"We condone celebrations. ... We don't condone actions of irresponsibility," Keough said. "I think Canadians understand it's quite an emotional moment for our team. It was not our intention to go against any IOC protocols."

In a statement released late Thursday, Hockey Canada apologized for the on-ice party.

"The members of Team Canada apologize if their on-ice celebrations, after fans had left the building, have offended anyone," the statement read.

"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 member Dick Pound of Montreal handed out the medals to Team Canada, and told CBC News that he had no problem with the women celebrating.

"I think it's kind of like killing a mouse with an elephant gun," Pound told Peter Mansbridge on Friday. "These kids have worked like dogs for years and months, and the pressure is off. They had a huge game and a great win. 

"Hey, let them have some fun."

With files from The Associated Press, The Canadian Press, CBCSports.ca's Tim Wharnsby in Vancouver