Attention NFL scouts: Jeremy Bloom is coming your way soon

Updated: February 14, 2006, 4:30 PM ET
Associated Press

TURIN, Italy -- The sour waft of scandal is familiar at the Winter Games, where drug cheats, corrupt judges and soused skiers fit neatly inside the five Olympic Rings.

But did anyone out there expect even a whiff of impropriety in Turin from the typically sweet-smelling Wayne Gretzky?

The Olympic men's hockey tournament, chock-full of NHL stars, opens Wednesday -- and yet the sport's greatest player ever was still answering queries about the "distraction" created by his wife's alleged high-stakes gambling. Gretzky made it clear at a news conference Tuesday that he was "over and done with" any further talk about the over and the under -- or any other betting lines.

Whether the players on his team can get past the controversy remains to be seen.

Skier Lindsey Kildow answered a big question, too: Yes, she intends to ski in the women's downhill just two days after a horrifying spill -- although a final decision won't be made until right before the race.

And U.S. moguls skier Jeremy Bloom says there's no question about his post-Turin plans. The Olympian will go from Italy to Indianapolis for the NFL scouting combine, chasing his other dream of winning a pro football roster spot.

It all makes for a busy broadcasting day at NBC, where the 8 p.m.-11:30 p.m. prime time package will include coverage of four of the day's five medals: the women's downhill, the men's moguls, the women's 500-meter short track speedskating and the men's luge doubles.

Its late-night coverage, beginning at 12:05 a.m., will include gold medalist Chad Hedrick competing in his second event, the new team pursuit. It's a preliminary race in Hedrick's quest to capture five golds in a single Winter Games.

The U.S. men's hockey team, silver medalists in Salt Lake City, debut against Latvia in a game airing live on the USA network at 3 p.m. The Canadians debut earlier against a badly overmatched Italian team, and all six preliminary round hockey games are scheduled to air live on MSNBC or Universal HD.

Expect Gretzky and wife Janet Jones, the former Hollywood starlet, to get lots of face time during the broadcast. Although Gretzky racked up an NHL record 1,962 assists in his career, he wasn't eager to help the media horde awaiting more details on the case involving his wife and his Phoenix Coyotes assistant coach, Rick Tocchet.

Gretzky, after Canada's first practice in Italy, insisted the disruptions in Wayne's World were all in the past.

U.S. coach Peter Laviolette announced his team will go with Tampa Bay's John Grahame in goal for its first game. And he identified New Jersey Devils' forward Brian Gionta, who has 30 goals this year, as one of the keys to the U.S. chances.

The trip to Italy is a homecoming for Gionta, whose grandmother Antionette Calisto was born here. "It's an extra little thing to come back," Gionta said.

On the ski slopes, skier Kildow will attempt one of the most courageous performances in Olympic history: climbing out of a hospital bed on Tuesday and competing Wednesday on the same downhill course where she wiped out.

Kildow, 21, amazingly escaped the crash with only a bruised hip, and complained Tuesday of pain in her lower back and pelvis. She was hospitalized overnight for observation after the Monday accident on a course that she had recently derided as too easy.

She was listed on the official start list for the downhill just 24 hours after she was airlifted to Turin from the mountains north of the city in San Sicario.

In the men's moguls, the audience will likely include a number of NFL scouts checking out potential draft pick Bloom. The skier finished ninth in the Olympic moguls competition in 2002; in the fall, he started playing football at Colorado. A few big moments -- including a 75-yard punt return TD on his first play -- evidenced his two-sport skills.

But the NCAA was upset by the endorsements Bloom picked up as a moguls skier. A lawsuit followed, with Bloom forced to choose one sport. He opted for moguls, dominated the 2005 World Cup season and is considered -- along with 2002 silver medalist Travis Mayer -- a strong medals contender.

Bloom will leave Italy on Friday, heading back for next week's NFL scouting combine.

In the men's doubles luge, the team of Mark Grimmette and Brian Martin hope to continue their climb up the medals table. In 1998, they won a bronze. Four years later, it was a silver. In 2006, they're hoping for gold.

NBC also plans a 4 p.m.-5 p.m. show with the Nordic combined, where Todd Lodwick is back after leading the American team to a fourth-place finish in 2002.


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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