Dorms Are The Norm For Nhl Stars Seven Flyers And Their Nhl Rivals Begin Their Stay In The Spartan Olympic Village.

Posted: February 10, 1998

NAGANO, Japan — The Canadian hockey team spent Monday night in a luxury Tokyo hotel. Hope it was enjoyable.

Now the king-size beds turn to cots. The steaks turn to Soba noodles. And the eyes of the world turn to the players.

Most of the more than 125 National Hockey Leaguers - including seven Flyers and their general manager, Bob Clarke - who will be taking part in the radically altered and much-anticipated Olympic tournament straggled into this remote central Japanese city last night and this morning.

Some came by the 200-m.p.h. bullet train from Tokyo. Others rode buses. Once here, ensconced in an Olympic Village on the outskirts of Nagano, their celebrity meant nothing. They will be asked for credentials wherever they wander.

Actually, their wandering should be at a minimum. Both the Canadians and Americans, still trying to adjust to the 14-hour time difference between here and the U.S. East Coast, had a busy first day planned in Nagano.

News conferences were scheduled for this afternoon, during which thousands of reporters from around the world, frustrated by bad weather and, so far, a lack of competitive drama, were eager to ask them about their long journey, their impressions of the Olympics, and their expectations for the tournament's first round, which will begin Friday.

That day, Ron Wilson's Americans, the World Cup champions, will oppose Sweden, while the Canadians, captained by the Flyers' Eric Lindros and with Clarke as their general manager, will meet a preliminary-round qualifier, probably Belarus or Slovakia.

Unlike their NBA Dream Team counterparts, the hockey superstars will be staying in the Olympic Village, in this case, a 25-minute bus ride from the Big Hat arena, where many of the biggest games will take place.

Inside the village, they will share tiny rooms with teammates, sleep on rock-hard cots and be off-limits to fans and media. There is a cafeteria, bookstore and, if they feel like a movie, a village theater playing, among other films, The Exorcist, Body Heat and National Lampoon's Summer Vacation.

``It will be like a college dormitory, not what they are used to,'' said Hideo Matsui, a volunteer with the Nagano Organizing Committee who has visited the site. ``Buildings are concrete. Rooms are small. But everything is clean.''

One of the major questions about the favored Canadian team, especially among the Japanese, was resolved before its flight left Vancouver Sunday.

Paul Kariya, the talented Anaheim winger who is of Japanese descent, traveled with the team. Kariya suffered a concussion last week when he was cross-checked by Chicago's Gary Suter, who, ironically, will play for the Americans here.

``He had been having headaches, and they didn't think he was quite ready to fly, but he should be ready to play,'' said John MacKinnon, manager of communications for Canadian hockey.

In the three days of practice, Canadian coach Marc Crawford will need to establish some sort of rotation for his talented goaltending trio of Patrick Roy, Martin Brodeur and Curtis Joseph and put together lines from a roster filled with talent, egos and size.

Wilson, whose team is virtually the same as the American unit that shocked Canada in the '96 World Cup, will try to figure out line combinations best able to counter the Canadians' depth and the speed of the Russians and Swedes.

Almost all the NHL players are on the six teams that won a bye into the final round - Canada, the United States, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Finland and Russia.

But there were a few NHL players scattered among the eight clubs in the preliminary round. In fact, the presence of one and absence of another created a small furor Monday.

NHL players Uwe Krupp, Olaf Kolzig and Marco Sturm had not yet arrived when their German team was beaten by Belarus, 8-2, jeopardizing its chances for a spot in the final round.

However, Belarus did have NHL defenseman Ruslan Salei. Salei joined the team early because he was serving a two-game NHL suspension for head-butting.

``I simply do not understand the world of hockey when this type of situation has been allowed to occur,'' German coach George Kingston said. ``This has a National Hockey League stamp all the way through the tournament, and it's very surprising that the way to come and be with your team early in the qualification round is via the suspension.''

The margin of victory was significant. The tiebreaker for teams that tie in the preliminary round is goal differential.

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