VANCOUVER - Let's face it: Combining hockey, beer, cigars, and goofy conduct isn't all that noteworthy in Canada.

Heck, it's practically the national pastime.

But when those hockey players are women and that behavior took place at an Olympic Games, the mix apparently is more volatile.

So yesterday morning, papers throughout Canada carried photos of the women's hockey team celebrating its 2-0 win over the United States in Thursday night's gold-medal game in what, for the women's sport at least, was rather unusual fashion.

Some players wearing their gold medals were chewing on them. Some were drinking champagne. Some were drinking beer or pouring it into teammates' mouths. Some were doing their drinking while smoking cigars, or reclining on the ice and kicking their feet into the air, or honking the Zamboni's horn, or even attempting to drive the ice-resurfacing vehicle.

Canadians seemed to think this was great, an appropriate response to an emotional triumph. But when a reporter asked someone from the International Olympic Committee - an organization renowned for its stuffiness - that official did not.

"It is not what we want to see," said Gilbert Felli, the IOC's director of the Olympic Games. "I don't think it's a good promotion of sport values. If they celebrate in the changing room, that's one thing, but not in public. We will investigate what happened."

Apparently, the women had been doing their celebrating in the locker room, but then, about 30 minutes after the game, photographers asked them to return to the ice.

What upset some about the resulting photos was that at least one of the players pictured swigging a beer was Marie-Philip Poulin, who happened to score the game's only two goals. She is 18. The legal drinking age in British Columbia is 19.

Hockey Canada, sensing a brewing issue, quickly issued an apology from the team.

"The members of Team Canada apologize if their on-ice celebrations, after fans had left the building, have offended anyone," read its statement. "In the excitement of the moment, the celebration left the confines of our dressing room and shouldn't have."

Steve Keough, a Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) spokesman, said the celebration was "not something uncommon in Canada."

"It was not our intention," he said, "to go against any Olympic protocols."

Yesterday morning, at a Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee (VANOC) news conference, officials were asked several questions about the incident.

Mark Adams, a VANOC spokesman, said that the COC was drafting a letter to team members to try to learn more details.

"We've heard all the stories and seen all the pictures," said Adams. "We'd like to find out what happened. But there was a very quick apology from the team, and that seemed to have drawn the line."

While Felli seemed to suggest there would be an IOC investigation, Adams said that was not the case.

"To characterize it as an investigation is wrong," he said. " . . . Will they come under some kind of scrutiny? Your guess is as good as mine."