July 18, 2013

Should NHLers play in the Olympics?

by Dan Bilicki In: Ice Hockey, Olympics

In case you haven’t noticed, the NHL has not released its schedule for the 2013-14 season. It used to be because of the whole Arizona Coyotes fiasco, but now there’s an issue we thought was actually solved during the lockout and just plain forgot about: Participation in the Sochi Olympics.

But no, a deal hasn’t been struck and it’s actually a bit questionable if the players will be going. So, let’s break down if it is a good idea or bad idea to send the boys overseas.


-First and foremost, it’s always good to see the best players playing together in an actual competitive setting. All-star games are a terrible representation of the actual sport. This would be one of the only times we could see Crosby, Stamkos and Tavares skating on the same power play.

-It raises the profile – and therefore TV ratings – for the Games. I’m pretty sure that NBC would be devastated to lose out on one of their biggest ratings grabs at the winter Games.

-It would show the higher ups in the NHL that we need to see the bigger international-sized ice in North America. More room for these stars to operate means more chances to see them use their tremendous skills. Who loses in that situation? No one.

-If the league doesn’t allow it, many European players will simply mutiny and go over anyways. Reigning MVP and two-time all-star (in 2013 alone) Alex Ovechkin has already said that he’ll be playing in the Games on home ice no matter what. It would be disastrous PR to have guys pack their bags and bail on their teams for more than two weeks.


-Sending players to the Olympics completely screws up the schedule. There are basically two weeks off in the middle of the season.  And when you consider that less than 15% of the league actually plays in the Games, that’s a whole lot of guys sitting around doing nothing in the middle of February.

-You don’t have to say yes. MLB just said no to the Olympics about using their players, so why does the NHL have to kneel to them? Baseball recognized that it’s not a good idea to take that big of a break mid-season. The NHL should follow suit.

-The NHL just went through a season with a condensed schedule that saw injuries rise. Would they really want their players to go through that again while also tacking on an extra two weeks of games for the biggest stars?

-There is, of course, a risk of players getting injured by these extra games and their NHL teams suffering because of it. How would the Leafs feel about Phil Kessel injuring his knee playing for Team USA and then being unavailable for the stretch run?

-The Olympics shouldn’t be about pro athletes. The Games were founded on involving the world’s best in amateur sports. That’s not exactly feasible these days, but we can at least take the pros out of the biggest league sports. I’ve said for a long time that NBA players shouldn’t be allowed at the Olympics and I don’t that NHLers should be allowed either. Why not use soccer’s restrictions, making it a U-23 tournament with three overagers allowed? That wouldn’t exactly work for the NHL still, but would solve the lack of competitive balance in Olympic basketball.

-Has anyone even considered that the players that go would have to adjust to a big time difference? This wasn’t so much of an issue at Vancouver or Salt Lake, but Turin and Nagano didn’t exactly work out well.

It’s quite the debate and I’m eager to hear your opinions on it. But when you boil it down, it comes down to the value of exposing more eyes to your sport against hurting your own product. And when you consider that the latest game would start around 11 a.m. and ratings for the Winter Games aren’t nearly those of the Summer editions, I think that the answer is easy: Keep the NHLers here and soldier through the schedule like they should.

Follow me on Twitter @danbilicki

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