Norwegian’s ‘ugly’ tackle draws criticism

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Norway’s men’s hockey team got knocked out of Olympic competition, as expected, but one dubious aspect of its match against Slovakia on Tuesday was still being talked about, both in Vancouver and at home in Oslo.

Ole-Kristian Tollefsen tackled Lubos Bartecko so hard that Bartecko’s helmet flew off, he fell hard and hit his head on the ice. TV cameras showed shocking photos of blood pooling under Bartecko’s head before he was carried off the ice on a stretcher, and straight to the hospital.

“That sort of tackle has no place on an ice hockey rink, and certainly not in an Olympics,” Slovakia’s captain Zdeno Chara told reporters afterwards. “It was incredibly ugly and there’s no excuse for such behaviour.”

Several Norwegian hockey officials agreed, with former NHL star and current Vålerenga coach Espen “Shampoo” Knutsen also telling newspaper Aftenposten that the tackle was “quite ugly” and noting that Norway lost as well, with Tollefsen getting a match penalty just six minutes into play.

Ole Stian Hansen, one of Norway’s top referees, said the tackle “was tough to watch,” and that it was “completely unnecessary” for Tollefsen to have “gone in with his elbow against a head in that manner.”
Tollefsen’s teammates rallied to his support, with teammate Patrick Thoresen saying “such things happen” in hockey and that the tackle wasn’t made intentionally. Tollefsen made no immediate comment. Bartecko was later reported to be recovering with no signs of permanent injury.
(Written February 25, 2010)