Wednesday, November 26, 2014
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Raffl, Austrians apologize for partying

Four of the Flyers’ five Olympians are making their way back from Sochi. Only Finland’s Kimmo Timonen - set to face-off against rival Sweden on Friday in the semifinals - is still kicking in the tournament.

Raffl, Austrians apologize for partying

Austria forward Michael Raffl dives for control of the puck against Finland in the first period of a men´s ice hockey game at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (Julio Cortez/AP)<br />
Austria forward Michael Raffl dives for control of the puck against Finland in the first period of a men's ice hockey game at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (Julio Cortez/AP)

Four of the Flyers’ five Olympians are making their way back from Sochi. Only Finland’s Kimmo Timonen - set to face-off against rival Sweden on Friday in the semifinals - is still kicking in the tournament.

One of them, Austrian winger Michael Raffl, is returning to Philadelphia with a little extra baggage.

Raffl and Austria’s two other NHL players, Thomas Vanek and Michael Grabner, caused an uproar in their European nation of 8 million for excess partying before their Olympic qualification match with Slovenia.

The 8th-ranked Austrians were knocked off by an upstart Slovenia team - picked by many to finish last in the tournament with only one NHL player - on Tuesday. Most of the Austrian roster was reportedly partying until 6 o’clock on Monday morning at the Austria House.

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Along with Vanek and Grabner, Raffl issued an open letter on Thursday apologizing for their “unprofessional” actions. The statement also said they did not believe drinking until Monday morning contributed to Tuesday’s result - which may ring true, since Slovenia ultimately 

“We are of the opinion that this did not affect the disappointing team performance at the playoff game against Slovenia,” a translated version of the statement said. “But we are aware of our role as role models and should have waited to celebrate on the evening after our last tournament game.”

To be clear: Austria was not a contender for a medal. As such, any news from overseas - particularly from Austrian outlets - should be appropriately toned down. Raffl was one of the few players who actually showed up for the overmatched Austrians. He managed 3 points (1 goal, 2 assists) in 4 tournament games.

That didn't stop his federation's staff from lashing out. A tearful Austrian coach Manny Viveiros said he had no answer as to “why this was happening before probably the most important game in the history of Austrian hockey.” Viveiros said he was “shocked” and “disappointed” after such a positive showing against Norway.

Austria entered the Olympics with modest expectations - and perhaps exceeded those in preliminary play, finishing ranked 8th out of 12 teams. What was supposed to be a celebration of Austrian hockey returning to the Olympics for the first time since 2002 ultimately ended with disappointment. Vanek, a pending free agent this summer in the NHL, was chided as a "mistake" choice for captain by the Austrian hockey federation president.

Coincidentally, Austria was knocked out in the same round as their chief rival, Switzerland, after an upset loss to Latvia.

Raffl, 25, helped get Austria back in the tournament with a qualifying win last February before he was spotted by the Flyers. Raffl has collected 18 points in 46 games as a rookie this season. His older brother, Thomas, was a member of Austrian’s Olympic team, as was former Flyer Andreas Nodl.

The trio of NHLers also apologized in the statement and vowed to take positives from their unfortunate exit at the Olympics.

“We are, at the end of the day, just people who make mistakes,” the translated statement read. “We want to sincerely apologize for the negative impression that may have arisen.” 

Mark Streit, Jake Voracek, Andrej Meszaros and Raffl are expected to return to practice with the Flyers on Sunday.

For the latest updates, follow Frank Seravalli on Twitter: @DNFlyers

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Frequent Flyers is your home for news and analysis of all things orange and black.

Frank Seravalli Daily News Staff Writer
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