Sunday, February 19, 2006

Should They or Shouldn’t They: The NHL/Olympics Dilemma

Since the 1998 Nagano Olympic Games, the NHL, NHLPA, and International Ice Hockey Federation have been in an agreement where the players of the NHL would be able to go to the Olympics and play for their country. However now, after three Olympic Games, it seems like the NHL is rethinking its stance on the issue entirely.

Many reports on the situation have stated that the NHL may not support its players going to the Olympics past the 2010 Games in Vancouver, British Columbia. Deputy commissioner Bill Daly has said that many factors, including length of the break and injuries, are going to be reviewed before a decision is made regarding participation by the NHL past 2010. NHLPA chief Ted Saskin has not mentioned anything past 2010 saying he does not want to speculate anything at this point. The new Collective Bargaining Agreement requires the NHL’s participation up to 2010.

However, it seems the hot topic for debate on message boards and in some news articles is whether the NHL should participate into the Olympic Games.

Most of the concern was highlighted following the injuries to Dominik Hasek and Patrik Elias, which put them out for the duration of the Olympics. Add that to Joe Sakic’s minor fracture and the instability of many players with nagging injuries during the NHL season, and you have yourself a recipe for pushing a NHL general manager and owner over the edge.

The NHL counters by saying that the Games are great exposure of the NHL and its players. However, contrary to that, there has been no link between NHLers being in the Olympics and higher ratings on TV or bigger interest in the NHL once they come back from the Olympics. Even though the NHL wants exposure of their players on an International stage, the NHL and NHLPA have yet to decide on when the next World Cup of Hockey will be, after stating that the event in 2008 will not be played.

In addition to all the mayhem off the ice, it seems that on the ice it doesn’t make much difference who’s on the team. Perfect example of that is Switzerland, who is carrying three NHL players, shutting out Canada, who has 23 players from the NHL. Of course, the similarities between that win and the “Miracle on Ice” were drawn, but without the political turmoil involved. What do you expect from a neutral country like Switzerland??

When polling to the masses, there are many out there who believe, since the NHLers are the best, they should be there and represent their country. Some have pitched the idea that the World Junior Hockey Championship should be put off in Olympic years to allow those athlete’s to participate in the Olympic Games. However, it seems the majority believe that allowing professionals participate in an event that was originally made for amateurs was a bad thing to begin with and getting them out of there couldn’t happen sooner. It really varies from person to person, but most believe the NHLers should call it a day in 2010.

Of course, getting out of the games is purely from a standpoint from the NHL owners and executive staff. The players enjoy going to the games and many love when they compete for their country. When they have to withdraw from injuries, you can tell that the players don’t want to, but they have to. Yet, when an injured player, like a Peter Forsberg, goes over to the event, you can bet that their bosses back stateside are holding their breath every time he hits the ice. However, there are some players who saw the light, like Miikka Kiprusoff, Markus Naslund, and Sergei Fedorov, and then they often get flak from their country’s newspapers for not taking part.

The upside for the players is that they are able to play for their country, which is something many of them could only imagine when they were younger. In addition, they are able to play throughout the break, which does not allow them to get rusty. However, the downside to playing a lot is the fatigue factor, yet, if they have great conditioning, it probably is not a factor.

The end all be all is what should happen when the topic comes up again?? Quite frankly, it would probably end up being better for the game if the professionals were out of the Olympics. The thought process behind that is we are seeing many nations with little to no NHLers on their rosters pulling out big moral, and sometimes actual, victories against the NHLers. In the past few seasons, countries like Belarus and Switzerland play the role of spoiler for many of the contending nations. For those countries to do something like that on the International platform, it could spark new interest in the game in those countries.

The only problem could come from what happened in the 1970’s where the Soviet Red Army would field a team of “amateurs.” Of course, those players were above and beyond the caliber of hockey players that most countries would have in the Olympics, but somehow they were able to do something like such. If the amateurs were going to be put back in the games, the International Olympic Committee and International Ice Hockey Federation would have to clearly define what is and is not an amateur.

The debate rages on and will do so until a final decision is made. Everyone will get their say and everyone will think of a way to make it right. Whether it’s keeping the NHL in, pulling them out, or limiting the amount of professional players there are on a roster. It is a good thing too, because it will take up some time when there are no NHL games on. Personally, I think taking the NHLers out would be a good thing. Not because they don’t deserve to be there, but they already have plenty of notoriety. The Olympics should be about giving other the chance to let people notice them and let them receive some accolades for the time being.

In addition, it will give more hockey fans a chance to see double the hockey action during that time. In the end, the fans are what the hockey community should really be looking after.

This has been ScottyWazz. Take care of yourself and someone else. PEACE!!

No comments: