With the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver coming to a close, I think it is time to analyze a problem the NHL is facing and that is whether to continue to allow its players to participate in the future winter Olympic Games. The dilemma they are facing is whether they should put their leagues play on hiatus for a two week period like they currently do, or if they should bar their players from playing in the games, in which would mean amateurs would be playing much like they did up until 1988 and in the 1980 games in Lake Placid in which came to be known as the Miracle on Ice. The reason this debate has been sparked is because of how the NHL receives no revenue from the games, yet they are the ones who assume all the risk. All major sports except for hockey and basketball do not feature professional athletes, but instead up and coming amateurs who have yet to be signed by professional teams.
The arguments being presented are when you allow NHL players to compete, you are taking away from those athletes who have talent, but just can’t seem to be signed by an NHL team. NHL player’s ultimate goal should be the Stanley Cup. That is what they dream of more as a child than winning a gold medal. As stated earlier the NHL bares all the risk and what if the players get hurt in the Olympics and miss the rest of the NHL season? Is it really worth taking a 2 week break in the middle of the season, when teams are in the midst of fighting for a playoff spot? While the NHL is getting some amazing exposure, especially because of the success the United States men are having, it is not the exposure they get in the summer by having undoubtedly the best playoffs in all sports. I also noticed in these Olympics games a lot of the earlier games were sloppy because the players in the NHL were unable to practice with their teammates and develop any chemistry. If you got amateurs together and allowed them to practice for several weeks the quality of hockey would be very good.
The other argument is why shouldn’t the best players in the world be allowed to represent their country? Players from the other professional leagues such as the KHL, Swedish Premier, and Swish Elite league are coming to the Olympics games why can’t the NHL send its players? Part of this argument also states that a lot of the stars in the NHL are of such a young age they are the same age as those amateurs who represented their country in the Olympics before pros do. If the NHL decides to stop sending their players to the Also the two week rest will be good for some players and teams.
Many players have come out and expressed their dissatisfaction with the brass of the NHL for even considering this idea. Alex Ovechkin has come out and said that he will take a leave from his NHL team even if they NHL doesn’t, to represent Russia. Meanwhile owner, such as Chicago Blackhawks owner, Rocky Wirtz, has said that sending six players as his team is puts the Blackhawks at a disadvantage compared to teams that don’t send that many. Also with this year’s Olympics played in Vancouver on a NHL size sheet of ice, the risk of injury was far greater. We saw a much more physical game than we are used to seeing in international play. While players were unwilling to admit the fear of injury on their mind, we could tell it was definitely evident the way some players who are on Stanley Cup contenders when the NHL resumes and play for a country that was a long shot for a medal.
You don’t have to go much further back then the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, when then Ottawa Senators goalie Dominick Hasek, was injured while representing the Czech Republic. His injury ended his season, and while the Senators finished the season with the Eastern Conference’s best record, they were bounced in the second round of the playoffs. My solution to this problem the NHL is facing is that I believe it is time for NHL players to no longer be allowed to compete in the winter Olympics. While many non traditional hockey fans watched the gold medal match between the United States and Canada, that might have been the only game they watched because the US was featured on MSNBC during the day for all their previous games. The pros can continue to play the World Cup of Hockey in the summer once they are eliminated from the playoffs, and they can still win a gold medal there.