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Original Issue

They're Just Saying No

Swedes in Turmoil

After the 2002 Olympics, in which Sweden's vaunted torpedo-system sank with the ship after Belarus's soft goal against Tommy Salo, the Swedish tabloid Expressen ran mug shots of the players with the headline guilty: they betrayed their country. As a recruiting poster, it's not exactly uncle sven wants you!

In trying to cobble together a medal contender for the worlds, Sweden has been turned down more times than the dorky kid at the dance. Declining invitations were Mats Sundin, Nicklas Lidstrom, Marcus Ragnarsson and Dick Tarnstrom. Forward Markus Naslund, brilliant in the NHL but a disaster in Sweden's Elite League, won't play. Sublime center Peter Forsberg is out with a broken wrist and a concussion. Forward Kristian Huselius, involved in a sex scandal, also will stay home. There's a feeling among Swedish players that being on a disappointing team run by a federation under fire from fans is not worth the grief. Last month Calle Johansson, an ex-NHL defenseman and captain of the 1998 Olympic team, said, "It's not an honor to play for your country anymore. The club teams are better run than the national team."