Olympic Participation - Should the NHL be Worried?

August 16, 2017

By: Gordon Brown

It’s no doubt members of the NHLPA and fans alike are upset over Gary Bettman’s verdict concerning player participation in the 2018 Seoul Olympics. Despite what many have wanted to see for quite some time, the NHL has officially decided not to allow their players to attend.

If it weren’t for Vegas and the Expansion Draft, it may have been this off-season’s most prominent topic of discussion.

A growing number of players are voicing their opinions, including some of the game’s best. It’s not new, but you would think some of these names might at least make the league think about reconsidering.

Among those who spoke out, Connor McDavid recently voiced his displeasure but ultimately accepted the ruling. On the other hand, Alexander Ovechkin has outright stated he’ll be flying to South Korea next January. He plans to go regardless.

Although it’s rather unlikely Ovi would travel` to Seoul without his co-workers, it still poses quite a predicament to the league.

It’s pretty clear players are unhappy, but what happens in the event Ovechkin actually follows through with his words? What would the league do in this situation, how steep would a suspension look? That’s a whole other issue.

Doesn't really seem like an ideal situation now, does it? Players appear to understand the logistics of scheduling an NHL season, as well as the complications such an event would cause. Schedules certainly must be condensed, as we experienced most recently in 2016-17 due to the World Cup of Hockey.

McDavid and others undeniably agree, but have emphasized the honour to represent one’s home country, and how that’s certainly a once in a lifetime opportunity. These teams could have featured some very special rosters, assembling veterans and young guns side-by-side.

With the era of speed, skill, and youth upon us, young stars would be front and centre on the world’s biggest stage.

It might have been the greatest generational clash since seeing Crosby and Toews help lead Team Canada to Gold on home soil in 2010. With a roster consisting of greats such as Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer, Crosby and Toews took Vancouver by storm at just 22 and 21 years old respectively.

There’s no doubt the 2018 edition would have featured even more youth than in past years.

This generational crossover had the potential to see some highly anticipated combinations, headlined by the duo of Crosby/McDavid (CAN). Other notable combos that come to mind would be Kane/Matthews (USA), Backstrom/Nylander (SWE), or even Koivu/Laine (FIN).

Now, more than ever, these young players are entering the NHL and making an impact. It’s extremely important that we showcase these world-class talents to inspire the up-and-coming generations to do the same.

If you truly wanted to grow the game around the globe — as Gary Bettman has claimed before — this is single-handedly the best way to do so. In case you didn’t know, this is supposed to be about best-versus-best. This is what the true spirit of the Olympics are about.

The 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics was an incredible journey that ended in glory, but to many was also just another chapter in Hockey Canada’s long historic past. To others like myself, it was the first time witnessing the standard that is true Canadian hockey greatness.

The expectation that we would win every time on the National stage, we wanted to be a part of that. We dreamt of becoming the next great Canadian hockey legends — and so did the Connor McDavid’s and Sidney Crosby’s of the world.

Draping the Canadian flag over my back and marching down Yonge street, drivers honking excessively. We haven't seen that in a long time.

In a time when political opinion is dividing nation’s more than ever, we could use the unity and patriotism. It’s a lot harder to get behind a roster that consists of second and third tier players, in what’s supposed to be a best-on-best style competition.

Although it’s doubtful the league will reverse its decision, one can always hope. Scheduling accommodations were made possible for the World Cup. This is the Olympics. The boys want to play.

It’s a shame, but unfortunately, that’s just how business works.

Gary Bettman doesn't see an opportunity to directly increase revenue the same way the league exploits the World Cup of Hockey. With injuries and insurance aside, which are resolvable issues, the league should lighten up and endorse their world-class players on a decision they’ve been so vocal about.

E-mail : BarnBurnerBrown@gmail.com
Twitter : @GordBrown_