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U.S. vs. Canada is hot ticket

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — It’s hard to say if Olympic records are being set, but tickets for Sunday’s gold medal hockey game between the U.S. and Canada might be the hottest in the history of Canadian sports.

On the official fan-to-fan resale site run by the Vancouver Organizing Committee, seats were being offered for several thousand dollars apiece.

On Craigslist, many of the tickets on sale were going for more than $4,000, and one seller was offering two “awesome seats” for $14,999 — cash only.

Canada, playing before rabid fans in the nation that invented hockey, will be taking on a strong U.S. team that prevailed 5-3 when the two teams met in the preliminary round. Even before the Olympics started, Canadians suggested anything less than a gold medal would be a devastating blow.

The game is expected to become the most watched sports event ever in Canada, likely breaking the mark of 10.6 million TV viewers for the preliminary-round Canada-U.S. game.

Organizers were philosophical Saturday when asked about the high ticket prices.

“No one is being forced to buy tickets they don’t want,” said Mark Adams, a spokesman for the International Olympic Committee.

PRINCE’S PREROGATIVE — On a day when an Italian was crowned king of the Olympic slalom, a flamboyant German prince who competes for Mexico may have made his royal exit.

At 51 years old, Hubertus Von Hohenlohe probably skied his last Olympic race Saturday in an event won by Giuliano Razzoli.

“I had a lot of fun,” said Von Hohenlohe, an heir of Germany’s Von Hohenlohe family who was born in Mexico City. “This could be it.”

For skiing, that is. Von Hohenlohe has a new plan in mind for the 2014 Sochi Games, and it involves sweeping the ice, not skiing down it. Von Hohenlohe wants to take up curling, perhaps run his own team.

STARS AND STRIPES FOREVER — Katherine Reutter skated around the short-track rink with an American flag on her back and kept it on during a news conference later Friday night. She showed up for another round of interviews Saturday morning still wrapped in it.

“I wish I could say I slept with the flag on,” said Reutter, who has won silver and bronze medals at these Olympics. “Tonight, I will be sleeping with the flag on.”

It’s more than patriotism.

“When I’m tired and feeling unmotivated in training, I think about the flag,” she said.

“I do workouts, depending on how I’m feeling, in front of various flags at the Utah Olympic Oval. Usually I work out in front of the Chinese flag to remind myself that, you know, ‘They’re not getting tired right now — so I’m not either. I’m going to finish this workout because I know at their rink, they’re not going to leave early.’

“And then other days, when I’m feeling better or I’m in need of even more motivation, I usually do a bike workout in front of the American flag. Whenever I’m tired and I want to give up, I look up at the flag and say, ‘That’s what I’m doing this for. That’s what I’m representing right now, and I refuse to give anything less than my best.’

“So,” she continued, “this flag, it’s every ounce, every minute of hard work I’ve ever put in. That’s why it means so much to me.”

TIME OFF — The U.S. Olympic men’s curlers have withdrawn from next week’s nationals because of emotional and physical exhaustion.

Lead John Benton said he brought up the idea after the team’s disappointing performance in Vancouver but insists it had nothing to do with the Americans’ last-place finish at 2-7.

The lineup already was to be without vice skip Jason Smith, with Olympic alternate Chris Plys set to replace him.

“We all underestimated the drain that this would be,” Benton said. “It’s kind of convenient to say based on our results that we might have pulled out. I can’t say that even if we had done well we wouldn’t have made the same decision. It’s just so physically and emotionally taxing. I think it’s just a relief to everybody to be done and put it to bed.”

Benton said he will enjoy playing a no-pressure league game Tuesday back home in Minnesota.

The eight-day national tournament starts next weekend in Kalamazoo, Mich. By skipping nationals, this team can’t qualify for the 2010 world championship in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, held from April 3-11.

The men’s team accepted the invitation to nationals before the mid-December deadline, but Benton said if the players had known how tired they would be now they probably wouldn’t have done so.

Skip John Shuster’s team will be replaced at nationals by the next squad in line from this season’s national playoffs, Wes Johnson’s team from Seattle.

LAST CALL — Liquor stores were closing early on Saturday to keep big Olympic crowds orderly in downtown Vancouver.

Liquor stores also closed early on Friday, but police still reported a record 1,800 voluntary pour-outs and more than 200 citations for drinking in a public place.

Openly drinking alcohol outdoors is a ticketable offense that carries a $230 fine in Vancouver.

Police asked the B.C. Liquor Control and Licensing Branch to close its stores at 7 p.m. Bars can remain open.

Vancouver police and the Integrated Security Unit, the joint effort between law enforcement and the military to provide security at the Olympics, also increased the number of officers downtown.

PROUD PAPA — U.S. men’s Alpine skiing coach Sasha Rearick has plenty to celebrate these days.

Forget about the four medals his athletes won at the Vancouver Olympics; Rearick just welcomed a daughter into the world.

He went home to Utah after the last U.S. competitor raced in the men’s giant slalom Tuesday. Little Zali Skye was born on Thursday evening.

Rearick jetted back to Whistler on Friday, in time to be there for the last Alpine race of the Olympics on Saturday.

Asked as the Winter Games wrapped up if he was proud of Bode Miller’s three medals and Andrew Weibrecht’s one, Rearick said: “To be honest, I’ve been focusing on just coming to work every day. I just had a baby two days ago. I’ve been on an emotional roller-coaster ride, so it hasn’t totally sunk in what we’ve done here.”