February 13, 2010

Why the NHL is dumb: Feb. ‘10 edition

by Dan Bilicki In: Ice Hockey, Olympics

In case you didn’t notice by the endless commercials, promos and posters everywhere for the Winter Games, the Vancouver Olympics kicked off last night while the NHL packs up their league to sit around idle for two whole weeks in the middle of what should be the start to their stretch run.

Why would a league willingly close up shop for two whole weeks during their season? It beats me, but it seems that allowing roughly 8% of their players participate in the Winter Games trumps the fact that the other 92% of NHLers will be sitting at home for that period of time.

You could argue that by allowing their players to play in the Olympics, it helps to brand their league international. That would make sense if the Games were being played in Italy, like four years ago, or in Japan in 1998, but Vancouver happens to be in Canada, the most hockey crazed nation in the world. The same kids that will watch Sidney Crosby play for Team Canada were the same kids that watched him win the Stanley Cup last year.

The Canadian Olympic committee might have argued for having the NHLers involved in the Games would bring a better chance of winning a medal for the home side. But if the pros weren’t allowed in, wouldn’t the best amateurs in the world, you know, the Canadian juniors, surely dominate? They might not have won this year’s tournament, but they had won gold in the previous five.

You couldn’t even argue that ticket sales wouldn’t be a big hit because this past world junior tournament in Regina, Saskatchewan was a rousing success. And that was in Saskatchewan.

Finally, why are professional athletes, like the NHLers even allowed in the Olympic Games? I have long disagreed with both NHL and NBA players participating in their respective Games and have no clue why the farce is allowed to continue. The Olympics were founded as a competition for the best amateur athletes in the world, and allowing people who are paid to be parts of professional teams is a slap in the face of that history.

It isn’t like other leagues haven’t stood up to the Olympics and set rules against their participation. Major League Baseball isn’t foolish enough to halt their season mid-way through for a silly tournament. They hold their own silly international tournament every two years before the season. FIFA set restrictions on players allowed to compete; you have to be under 25 and not have competed at a World Cup. There’s no need for the NFL to rule on the subject since no other country could possibly step up to the USA’s tackle football dominance.

Let’s get this straight: I have no problems with athletes being sponsored for what they do. They do have to make money somehow. But when you are a paid member of a team and your sole purpose is to contribute to this pro team, that’s a lot different than a speedskater being paid to film a Kodak commercial.

I seriously hope that the NHL takes a long look at their Olympic agreement after these Games and decides to do the right thing: Tell their players that they won’t shut down their league for two whole weeks and tell them that if they want to compete at Sochi 2014, they have to clear their absence with their teams.

And another thing…

A scant three days after the Games end and the league resumes play, the trade deadline happens. Wouldn’t you want to know if a player you’re acquiring is going to be coming back in game shape after two weeks off? Couldn’t they have pushed the deadline back a week or so? What’s the harm done by that? Again, another big decision botched by the worst run big league in North America.

1 Comment

  1. I’ve heard a few interviews with some of the 92% that weren’t selected to play in the Olympics. When asked if they watched the games, they mostly replied no. They were all at Carribean resorts drinking beer and eating at the 24 hour buffett. Should make for some fast-action hockey over the next couple of weeks.

    Also, the OHL, WHL and QMJHL don’t shut down each winter for the World Junior – the NHL shouldn’t have to for the Olympics.

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