Take a moment and imagine the Winter Olympics for Men’s Ice Hockey without Sidney Crosby or Alexander Ovechkin. Not a very exciting thought, huh? However, that thought could become true, but with more superstars missing than just Crosby and Ovechkin.
The NHL still hasn’t agreed to put games on hold so their players can participate in the 2014 Shochi Winter Olympic games in Russia. The issue is still in debate and they are trying to figure out the pros and cons of the stoppage of the season and participation of players.
“Vancouver was an easy call because we’re going to play the games in Canada,” said Gary Bettman, the NHL commissioner. “Salt Lake City was an easy call. Japan and Italy might not have given us in terms of focus and attention and impact what we may have hoped from taking a 17-day break.”
I understand that allowing the players to play on the North American continent is easier, but I don’t understand the difference in the 17-day breaks. They are all the same. Every player that was not in the Olympics had a 17-day break.
Fans are not the only ones against it, but also the players.
“I’ll go play the Olympic Games for my country,” Ovechkin said. “If somebody says to me you can’t play, see ya.”
Even Sidney Crosby agrees with his on-ice rival.
“Russian or not Russian, I can understand,” Crosby said. “I think we definitely feel strongly, me personally and I think all the players do, that it could be the opportunity of a lifetime, especially the guys from Russia. It only happens once.”
The NHL is already competing for players with the Kontinental Hockey League, especially when it comes to the Russian superstars. If the NHL does not let their Russians compete in the games then they can say goodbye to those players. The Russians have become a big part of the NHL in the past years and not allowing them to play would be a mistake.
“Obviously, we want to play in our home country in front of our home crowd, it’s huge for us,” said Penguins defenseman Sergei Gonchar, who played for Team Russia in Vancouver. “The Russians have been playing in the league for a while and they’ve done a lot for this league and, hopefully, the NHL will reward us with the Olympics. We’re all hoping for it. Some of them are saying we have to play there, and I agree with them. Hopefully, they are going to respect our opinion.”
The NHL needs to listen to the players. The Russian players have expressed their opinions on the matter, and same with a lot of other players from other countries. They allowed the Americans and Canadians to play in front of their home crowds, so why can’t the Russians.
Another thing Bettman and the NHL need to understand, is that they gained more fans of hockey or at least more people know about the game than before. I had friends that never watch hockey of have any interest texting me about all the USA games in Vancouver. It was very exciting to see what the Olympics were doing for the game. More people have taken in interest in hockey.
There are some people out there that think they should have amateur players playing in the Olympics rather than NHL stars. I do not agree with them because that is what the World Jr’s are for. It is a tournament every winter after Christmas, where players that are under 19 represent their countries. If that is what you want to see, then watch that. For Canada it is the equivalent to America’s March Madness.
Personally I see more reasons to allow NHL players to participate in the Olympic games than reasons not to. I actually don’t see any reasons not to. I hope the NHL will agree to allow players represent their countries or the league could lose some of its best players. In the end I think Bettman and the NHL will do the right thing and allow participation.