The Business of Ball with Joseph James Francis
Why I am Okay with NHL Players Sitting out the Olympics
Tuesday, January 2, 2018
As we fly past the Christmas break, Boxing day brings up to one of the most exciting sporting events during the course of the year, the World Junior Hockey Championships. December 26th is always known for 2 things in Canada: Shopping and Hockey. While I don’t care much for shopping, sports always get me going. As we roll through the World Juniors I start to think of why this tournament is so popular. Is it because it’s country versus country? Is it because Canada has been so dominating over the tournament’s existence? Is it because we are all still drunk from holiday wine and turkey? I think the reason why we love this tournament so much is because of the name itself, Junior Hockey. We get to see the up and coming stars play their hearts out for nothing more than a love of the game. I think that is lacking at the pro level and even at the Olympic level. This is why I am not upset that the Olympics will not be allowing NHL stars to play next year in PyeongChang, South Korea. I have several reasons why I think it is better if the NHL elite don’t go to the Olympics and the sport will be better for it, so here it goes.
1) Olympics were always supposed to be about amateur athletes
Up until the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Japan, NHL players did not participate in the event. It was after the amazing response the American “Dream Team” Basketball squad received during the 1992 Olympics that Gary Bettman decided that it would be best for the sport if pros were to participate. This created many great moments with stars like Mario, Sidney and Alexander all getting to don their countries colors. While it brought us some amazing moments like the Golden Goal from the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, it assured the games lost their amateur feel. I never could understand why watching a glorified all-star game was so appealing. In fact, I would rather watch an all-star game because at least the best would be playing the best. In the Olympics, it feels as if the Hockey haves pummel the Hockey have-nots. It rarely introduces me to players I have never seen before. It just shows me players I know playing in a different uniform.
2) There is very little parity in Olympic Hockey
Tying into my last point, Olympic Hockey is a live pissing match between only a handful of countries. A total of six nations have ever won a gold medal in Olympic Ice Hockey. Even more troubling is that Canada has won 9 golds and Russia has won 8. Sadly 17 of the 23 gold medals handed out were given to either Canada or Russia. America and Sweden have both won 2 with Great Britain and the Czech Republic each winning one. This to me is completely unacceptable. What this shows me is that not enough countries actually play competitive hockey and by adding NHL players to the games we have done nothing to help with parity. Since going with NHL players, Canada has won 3 of the 5 Olympic Gold Medals. If we are not going to make the games more competitive by putting in pro players, we can at least make them more meaningful by keeping amateurs as the focus.
3) It prolongs the NHL season and causes injuries
I love professional sports because the best players in the world can compete on an even playing field and show who’s best. One thing I dislike about professional sports is that the seasons are often way too long. An 82 game NHL season encompasses half of the year. Add to that 2 months of playoffs and by the time May rolls around I have had about enough of hockey. A 2-week break in the middle of the season every four years makes the NHL season even longer. We are getting close to Canada Day Weekend by the time the season ends sometimes, and that to me is ridicules. Prolonging the season can also lead to injuries. We all remember the John Tavares injury that sidelined him for an entire season. This is of no use to the NHL whose teams pay big salaries for these players and often require them to play for attendance. Losing these players due to injury negates the possible positive effects that any Olympic presence might generate. When a star goes down it is a huge blow, especially when it wasn’t during the hockey season.
While my opinion might not be a popular one, I don’t believe any professional athletes should play in any Olympic Games, summer or winter. The whole essence of the Olympics is sports at its purest and you don’t get that by seeing Canada’s ice hockey team beating Kazakhstan 12-0 or watching USA’s men’s basketball team beating Nigeria 130-56. It is why college sports are so popular in America. It is the last realm of sports purity. Let’s take the Olympics back to that.
Joseph James Francis is a Financial Advisor, Money Coach, and Blogger. He can be reached at:
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