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U.S. Hockey players trash apartments at Olympic Village

Officials from the USA Hockey, National Hockey League, the NHL Players Association are scrambling to offer apologies and make amends with the United States Olympic Committee and the Nagano Olympic Organizing Committee.

"Obviously, such conduct is unacceptable and will not be tolerated," said NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. He stopped short of promising disciplinary action since the players were not performing for their NHL teams at the time.

NAOC spokesman Ko Yamaguchi said three apartments sustained damage to doors, floors, walls, chairs and beds. At least one chair and three fire extinguishers were thrown from the fifth-floor apartments into a ground-level common garden area below.

Damage was estimated at $3,000. The USOC has promised to pay all costs.

Nagano's Games are the first in which NHL players have been allowed on Olympic hockey teams.

"In spite of this, I hope ice hockey will continue to play an important role in future Olympics," Yamaguchi said during a Friday press conference. When pressed about whether vandalism would hurt chances for continued NHL participation in the Games, Yamaguchi would say only that the incident was "very regrettable."

In fact, that phrase - "very regrettable" - was used no fewer than six times during the 20-minute press conference, most often in response to questions like "What do you think about millionaire American athletes getting drunk and trashing the Olympic village?"

The damage was done sometime between 2:30 and 4 a.m. Thursday and discovered three hours later. However, it wasn't reported to NAOC until some 12 hours later, about 2:30 p.m. Thursday. Then, according the NAOC officials, the USOC requested that NAOC wait to inspect the apartments until after the players had left the country.

NAOC officials surveyed the apartments Friday morning.

Yamaguchi deflected questions about the players' identities to the USOC.

"The USOC and our Olympic delegation are deeply disturbed by the behavior of some of our athletes," said USOC president Bill Hybl. "We will work with USA Hockey and the NHL to determine if we can identify who were clearly in violation of our Code of Conduct."

USA Hockey has issued a formal apology to the U.S. Olympic Committee and has forwarded the same to the NAOC.

USA Hockey executive director David Ogrean said his association also will work in cooperation with the NHL and its players association in determining responsibility.

"This is an unfortunate incident and one that we deeply regret," Ogrean said. "We believe only a handful of individuals were involved. Nevertheless . . . the actions of a few should not be construed as representative of an entire team.

The early morning incident not only resulted in the damage to the living quarters but also awakened other U.S. athletes, including a contingent of speed skaters.

"Not only are we sorry that this happened for many reasons, but I am particularly unhappy that this incident disturbed other U.S. athletes who were sleeping and preparing for their events on Thursday," Hybl said.