SOCHI, Russia -- Considering the way Canada played defense over the last three games, it's hard to imagine one player making a big difference in game. That didn't stop the Swedes from crying foul after the IOC ruled center Nicklas Backstrom out of Sunday's gold-medal game after he tested positive for an allergy medication.
Sweden, which was already down its two top centers, Henrik Zetterberg and Henrik Sedin, because of injuries, lost to Canada, 3-0, in the Olympic final at Bolshoy Ice Dome. The Swedes were also playing without top winger, Johan Franzen.
"I talk for the players, and for the coaches, and for all staff, and we are all very upset today," said Tommy Boustedt, general manager of the Swedish team. "Our opinion is that the IOC has destroyed one of the greatest hockey days in Swedish history."
Backstrom was the top Swedish center in the Games, their best playmaker. But at around 1:30, Boustedt got a phone call from the Swedish Olympic Committee, saying Backstrom was being called to a hearing. Boustedt couldn't reach Backstrom, who was warming up at the rink. So he rode a bicycle to Bolshoy and the two rode to the Olympic Village, where the hearing was taking place.
The IOC said Backstrom had tested positive for prohibited levels of pseudoephedrine, which the Swedes say had been ingested in a daily allergy medication, Zyrtec-D. Shortly before 2 p.m., coach Par Marts heard the hearing was taking place.
"I didn't get a definite decision that he couldn't play until during the warm-up," Marts said, "so then we had to just take it from there. It feels like a great miscarriage of justice. IIHF (International Ice Hockey Federation) have doctors here who said that they thought Nicklas should play, but the International Olympic Committee said he shouldn't.
"This is something you should get notified on within 24 hours," Marts said. "so if you get to hear about it two hours before the game it feels like they (IOC) are playing some kind of game. It's just rude. You can't just do something like that."
During his press conference after the loss, Marts said the IOC decision was "like kindergarten." He said the Canadians were the best team in the tournament, but it was disappointing not to be able to put his best players on the ice for the final.
Boustedt called the decision a blow to hockey in Sweden. In his mind, the IOC tarnished "one of the high points in Swedish hockey history." He said he and Backstrom watched the game on television at the Olympic Village.
"We cried, both of us," Boustedt said. "I don’t cry easily, but we were both very sad. It was meant to be the most important game of Nicklas’s life. Then I come cycling like an idiot, telling him he can’t play.
"That was one of the worst games we've ever seen. Not because of the outcome, and the way the team played, but because Nicklas couldn't be in the game. This is one of the toughest days for me in Swedish
hockey, and all because of the IOC.
"They destroyed this hockey day for all Swedish fans, and for lots of fans all over the world."
Backstrom said later that it was very sad to find out two hours before the biggest game of his career that he wouldn't be allowed to play.
"I'm going to speak from my heart now," Backstrom said. "I was watching the game at the village. I've been here for two weeks now, and it's probably the most fun two weeks I have ever had. It was a great group of guys, and I was ready to play probably the biggest game of my
career. Two and a half hours before the game, I got pulled aside."
Sabres defenseman Henrik Tallinder played in Backstrom's stead. Tallinder, who is the eighth defenseman on the Swedes, played only 40 seconds.
""I got the call an hour and a half before the game to get in and get dressed," Tallinder said. "So it's just quick. It's a big loss. It's a big player, one of our best offensive guys. When you have a guy like that not going to play, it hurts us, of course."