DREAM TEAM MANIA HITS OLYMPIC HOCKEY

I have a Dream.

You have a Dream, too. Your neighbor has a Dream. Your cousin in Sweden has a Dream.

In fact, thanks to the NHL, a whole lot of people now have Dreams. As in Dream Teams. That’s right. The upcoming Olympic Games in Nagano, Japan, will, for the first time, feature NHL stars.

Now, I admit, I wasn’t crazy about this idea. After all, the original Dream Team — NBA players in the 1992 Barcelona Games — was a bit of a nightmare. With the original version, the “Olympic ideal” meant room service.

Remember how Michael Jordan used a helicopter to take him to the golf course
— on the day of the game? Remember how the Dream Team almost refused to take the stand for its gold medals because the logos on the players’ warm-ups didn’t match their personal shoe company deals?

I don’t want to say corporate greed dominated, but if Planet Reebok had a flag, it would have marched in the opening ceremonies.

Anyhow, I don’t think we’ll have to worry about troubling behavior with the Olympic hockey teams. For one thing, there’s a big difference between Barcelona, a city known for sangria, and Nagano, a city known for slush. How much trouble can you get into at a luge track?

Besides, there are fundamental differences between the NBA and the NHL. Scar tissue, for one thing. Also, NBA players make more money, have bigger egos, and expect an endorsement deal before their first free throw. Hockey players are happy to get free skates.

The original U.S. Dream Team featured Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing and Karl Malone. The new U.S. Dream Team has stars such as Brett Hull and Jeremy Roenick. But never mind rosters. There are easier ways to tell the difference between Dream Teams….

HOOPS: “Decent meal” means filet mignon.

HOCKEY: “Decent meal” means Molson Ice.

HOOPS: Had Chuck Daly as coach, whose toughest task was blow-drying his hair.

HOCKEY: Has Ron Wilson as coach, whose toughest task will be identifying himself to reporters.

HOOPS: Took Magic Johnson, five-time NBA champion, even though he was retired.

HOCKEY: Wouldn’t take Mark Messier, six-time NHL champion, and he’s still playing.

HOOPS: Shoves opponents during games.

HOCKEY: Shoving begins in warm-ups.

HOOPS: Biggest advantage was that Russia spilt into 3,716 new countries.

HOCKEY: Biggest advantage is that Russia spilt into 3,716 new countries.

HOOPS: Had broadcaster Bob Costas, who has high standards.

HOCKEY: Has broadcaster Don Cherry, who has high collars.

HOOPS: Had good sense not to put Latrell Sprewell on the team.

HOCKEY: Had good sense not to put Tie Domi on the team.

HOOPS: Their “Great One” is the most recognized face on the planet, starred in
“Space Jam,” and is making $47 million a year in endorsements.

HOCKEY: Their “Great One” still can’t get a decent haircut.

HOOPS: When glass shatters, it hits players.

HOCKEY: When glass shatters, it hits fans.

HOOPS: “Free throw” means a foul shot.

HOCKEY: “Free throw” means a punch when the ref isn’t looking.

HOOPS: Team motto, “Don’t forget which shoe company pays you.”

HOCKEY: Team motto, “Don’t forget your teeth.”

HOOPS: Told opponents after game, “Good game. Have a nice life.”

HOCKEY: Will tell opponents, “See you next week at the Garden.”

Of course, the biggest difference between our hockey Dream Team and the basketball version is that there’s no guarantee the hockey one will win. Russia, Sweden and Canada all have excellent shots at taking the gold. And one of these four countries will get no medal at all. Also, for the first time, many Americans will have to root against their hometown heroes — such as Steve Yzerman and Brendan Shanahan — if they want their homeland to win.

As for the suggestion that maybe it was better when young, hungry, non-paid amateurs played the Olympic Games, and that stopping the NHL season for three weeks is kind of crazy, and that maybe corporate greed and TV ratings have taken over the whole Olympic process and maybe we should drop this whole Dream Team idea and go back to the way it used to be?

Sure. That could happen.

Do you believe in miracles?

To leave a message for Mitch Albom, call 1-313-223-4581.

Just in time for the holidays …

Mitch Albom will sign copies of “Tuesdays With Morrie” four times in the next three days. And Barnes & Noble has a special inscription offer through Wednesday.

Mitch will sign 7-8 tonight at Borders, downtown Birmingham; 7:30-8:30 p.m. Friday at Waldenbooks, Lakeside Mall; 11 a.m.-noon Saturday at Borders, Rochester Hills; and 5-6 p.m. Saturday at Doubleday Books, Briarwood Mall.

If you purchase the book at a Barnes & Nobles in the metro area through Wednesday, you can leave inscription instructions. Mitch will sign the books and they will be available for pickup no later than Dec. 22.

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