Olympic hockey has come to a close. Canada took the Gold thanks to pure adrenalin amidst legs that were quickly tiring of 4 on 4 hockey.
Now that it’s finished I too will join the chorus of people asking: Should NHLer’s be allowed to play in the Olympics?
Short Answer: It depends.
The Olympics are supposed to highlight the competition of the best; best individuals and best teams. However, there is a phenomenon well known in sports that the best teams don’t always have the best individuals.
Throughout the various telecasts announcers made reference to how many NHLer’s were on every team, as if that on its own determined whether or not the team would be able to compete.
I don’t think anyone needs reminding that the “Miracle on Ice” team had ZERO NHLer’s on it at the time they won the Gold in Lake Placid. Oh, sure, many of the players went on to play in the NHL, but if you could time warp this year’s US team to then, there would be no doubt that this year’s team was superior in talent.
What’s my point?
Hockey is team sport. If the sport is to be respected and if it’s to truly grow, it needs to continue to be connected to its roots – it needs to be a sport of passion, commitment, skill and teamwork. What will showcase that is multiple teams competing that have played together for more than 48 hours before the Olympic tourney. Having a two week, round robin, All-Star series, however exciting, is not what hockey is all about.
But what about the players? They overwhelmingly want to participate and play for their respective countries.
Why wouldn’t they? They get a chance to compete in the Olympics and if they fail they come back to multi-million dollar contracts and a shot at the Stanley Cup.
Alexander Ovechkin said he would walk out on his team to play in the next Olympics if the NHL didn’t suspend operations and send its players like it did this year. I would venture that other players might do the same.
This perspective is interesting.
Ovechkin (and others like him) are basically telling their native countries: “You can work for two to four years to pull together a team but in the end, you’ll want me there anyway.”
If players in the NHL really cared about showcasing hockey in its best light, they would leave the NHL for two years and go back to their native countries, tryout for, and if they made it, work to build their respective teams in intra/inter-national competition. That would make for some really great hockey in Sochi 2014.
Okay, so I’m polling NHLer’s: I know you all bleed to play in your native lands, to go for the Gold in the Olympics. So I’m asking you, how many of you will leave your NHL teams in two years, go to your Native lands and go to work to prepare for Sochi?
Now don’t all raise your hands at the same time…I’ll wait….