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 Dominick Hasek, Czechs stare down Canada in shootout.
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Member of Canada's Team Asks for Understanding

By David Ginsburg
Associated Press
Saturday, February 21, 1998; 3:06 p.m. EST

NAGANO, Japan — Martin Rucinsky is proud to be a member of the Montreal Canadiens and admires the way that Canada loves its hockey.

"I love it so much to play there because hockey means a lot to old people, little kids, the media, everyone,'' he said. "It's a religion there.''

So Rucinsky can only hope the same fans who cheer him in Montreal won't blame him for his role in bouncing Canada from the Olympics.

Rucinsky played left wing for the Czech Republic in its 2-1 shootout win over Canada on Friday. The victory pushed the Czechs into the title game Sunday (Saturday EST) and ousted Canada from contention for the gold medal it so dearly coveted.

Regardless of how the Czechs fared in the finale against Russia, Rucinsky will have a medal to bring back to Montreal. The Canadian team, on the other hand, will return home empty-handed.

"That's sports. I think the Canadian fans will understand,'' Rucinsky said. "We were the better team — we outshot them, outplayed them and outskated them.''

Rucinsky, 26, was born in Czechoslovakia and lives in Litinov, a city in the Czech Republic. He had three goals and an assist in his first four games and was a part of the complete Czech effort against Canada.

Although Canada's loss was difficult for the hockey-mad country to swallow, Rucinsky believes he will receive a warm reception when the Canadiens resume their NHL schedule Wednesday against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

"I'm looking forward to going back there with my medal and it will be fun to celebrate with my teammates,'' he said. "I'm pretty sure they're going to cheer for me the first game — I hope.''

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

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