Wednesday, February 18, 1998
He wore no shield. He covered up nothing. He wept for an opportunity lost and for an embarrassment he had difficulty comprehending.
Imagine, he thought, after growing up in Sweden, after playing eight times for his country, after all the abuse he has taken from Don Cherry, now there is this: Olympic disqualification for technically no longer being a Swedish citizen.
"I made a mistake," Samuelsson said yesterday when it became official that his Olympic Games were over. "I thought it was okay to have passports from Sweden and the United States. I didn't know it was wrong."
Samuelsson's eligibility came into question when a Swedish journalist, Jan Bengston of the newspaper Svenska Dagbladet, questioned his status to Rene Fasel, president of the International Ice Hockey Federation, and to Richard Fagerlund, the head of the Swedish federation.
Bengston was aware that Samuelsson held two passports, which is fine if you're American -- see Brett Hull or Adam Deadmarsh -- but not according to Swedish law.
Yesterday, the Court of Arbitration for Sport -- the same body that overturned the IOC's decision to strip Canadian snowboarder Ross Rebagliati of his gold medal -- upheld the IIHF's decision on Monday to ban the New York Rangers defenceman for the remainder of the Games.
The court's panel of three arbitrators also upheld the IIHF's decision to let the two preliminary Swedish victories stand, despite the fact that IIHF bylaws call for forfeitures.
"Unlike world championships, where forfeiture applies, at the Games this sanction would negatively affect a number of innocent teams, a consequence not intended under the rules," the court's ruling read.
Since his initial discovery, Bengston has been called a traitor in Sweden. At his home, his wife has received many angry and threatening telephone calls.
"They have called me the worst names you can possibly call someone," Bengston said.
Four years ago, Samuelsson applied for American citizenship, more for tax reasons than anything else. Three years ago, he was granted the appropriate papers. But he never relinquished his Swedish passport.
"Nobody told me it was wrong," Samuelsson said. "My citizenship is Swedish. I always think of myself that way. If only someone had told me."
Actually, someone did tell him, but he chose not to act on her words.
His wife, Karen, asked him to straighten out his passport situation but he thought she was overreacting.
"I was a fool about it," he said before flying to New York with his wife. "I just didn't understand.
"I love Sweden. I love playing hockey for Sweden. I'm not with the team anymore."
And as he spoke those words, he again began to cry.
With Samuelsson lost to the Swedish team's defence, his place will be taken by veteran NHLer Tommy Albelin.
Wayne Gretzky was miffed that his Rangers teammate was disqualified.
"Ulfie's an NHLPA player," Gretzky said. "He plays hard and he's already played three games. Let him stay. He gave up two weeks of his life to play for his country. He's got kids and a family back home. I support him 100%."
Canada's Steve Yzerman also was on Samuelsson's side.
"He's a Swedish player. He has always played for Sweden. I don't see what the problem is."