We interrupt this exciting NHL playoff chase to bring you the Olympics
Well here we are, at the Olympic break. It’s the best invention ever for getting away from winter (especially this one) for a week or so and thawing out the bones. Other than that, I’m just not sure it’s reason enough to bring the NHL season to a screeching halt.
Don’t get me wrong. I love the Olympics; I just don’t like seeing the NHL shut down for the better part of three weeks so its players can participate. I get the national pride thing; honestly, I do. But to me, you can have just as much national pride if Olympic hockey were played without NHL players. Seriously, I believe the Miracle on Ice was voted the biggest sporting event of the 20th Century by Sports Illustrated, and it didn’t include one NHL player.
And the drama this year has been absolutely deafening and downright cacophonous. Why no Bobby Ryan on Team USA? Can you believe what Brian Burke said about him? Speaking of Team USA, no Jack Johnson, really, the way he skates and what that could mean on the big ice in Sochi? How could Martin St. Louis have been left off the Canadian team (initially)? Now, how can Claude Giroux be left off that roster? Martin Erat over Jiri Hudler? Whose idea?
You get the picture. And that doesn’t even begin to address the very sensitive issue of some players seemingly putting responsibility to their Olympic team at the same level as their NHL team, or even higher. Please, how is it even possible that players can’t play for their NHL teams leading up to the break but plan to play in Sochi? I understand the timing of the healing process could make that viable, but the optics are really bad.
Now we’re being told this might be the last time NHL players go to the Olympics. At least there certainly doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of interest in sending the boys to Pyeongchang, South Korea, in 2018. So, is the NHL going to be geographically selective and pick the spots where it makes sense to send players and shut down the league? Or is this the end of the NHL Olympics run?
For me, I hope it’s the latter. Look, I love seeing the best players in the world compete country vs. country. I’m just saying it doesn’t have to be in the Olympics, during the middle of the season. Why not build an international competition around the NHL season, not during it? (As I recall, that Summit Series from back in the day was pretty compelling hockey and pretty good for the game.) Or, shoot, if we can play hockey in Los Angeles outdoors, why not make Olympic hockey part of the Summer Games? Would that be any more preposterous than shutting down a major sport for three weeks in the most exciting part of the regular season?
I wish all the NHL Olympians well, and I applaud their patriotism. And I’ll be a bit of a hypocrite here and admit I was mesmerized when the U.S. played Canada for the Gold in Vancouver, and Sidney Crosby won it for the home team with an OT goal. That was the stuff of movies.
That magical moment notwithstanding, I say bring back the Summit Series, or a reasonable facsimile. In the meantime, let the Games in Sochi begin, but count me as someone who’s more interested in seeing the run to the Stanley Cup begin, again.