Should Use of NHL Players Continue at the Olympics?

Posted: February 24, 2014 in Uncategorized

APTOPIX-Sochi-Olympics-Ice-Hockey-Men-1Another successful Olympic event is over. As we wave goodbye to Sochi and gaze towards the dawn of 2018, we are left wondering whether or not the games’ marquee event, men’s ice hockey, will include NHL players once again. The games, which will take place between February 9-25 in Pyeongchang, South Korea, promise to be worth watching. But, will the potential lack of NHL players hurt the viewership and interest in the men’s hockey tournament? Should NHL players head to the Far East? These are questions that will be answered in the next six months.

That’s right, there’s a good chance that this past week was the last chance you’ll get to see the NHL players partake in the Olympic Games. Executives of NHL teams have been poignant in their disinterest in sending them over again. There are plenty of reasons why this is the case. First, the players and teams aren’t paid for their duties. Owners of NHL teams are not being compensated for sending the players whose salaries they pay overseas to play for a foreign country. They’re also losing out big time on potential ticket, concession, and merchandise sales during the two week hiatus in which no games are played.

As if the financial realm of things wasn’t enough to clip the chance at more NHL involvement in the Olympics, there is a noted safety issue as well. This month alone, two prolific superstars, Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg and New York’s John Tavares, were injured during Olympic play. Owners are not insured against these injuries, and their team’s chances of winning NHL games is jeopardized by the loss of these tremendous talents. Should owners really feel obligated to send their investments to another country only to see them sent back in figurative body bags? These owners didn’t exactly get into their positions because they were stupid. No, these are investment moguls with a keen eye on when they’re being hosed. With regards to the Olympics, they are certainly coming out on the short end of the stick.

Granted, there are still plenty of reasons to send players to Pyeongchang in four years. There’s no doubt that the use of NHL players helps grow the sport both in and outside the United States. How many people would have paid attention to the men’s ice hockey team if it were populated by non-household names like Kane, Kessel, and Quick? Probably the same amount that paid attention to the women’s team. That’s a severe drop in ratings for the biggest event in the Winter Olympics. Keep in mind that NBC, the network that televises the Olympic Games in the United States, owns the rights to the NHL’s American broadcasts. If NHL players were not involved in 2018, NBC serves to lose a lot of money on advertising revenue. Something tells me that the network will have Gary Bettman’s ear as discussions continue over the next six months.

Another reason to continue having NHL players partake in the Olympics is simple: they want to! Players have been quoted as saying that playing in the Olympics for their home country is one of the highest honors in sports. In fact, when this same discussion came up years ago about whether or not to send players to Sochi, Russians like Alex Ovechkin stated that they would leave their team to play regardless of whether or not the league sanctioned it. Now, that may have merely been an empty threat. But, it certainly proves a point. The players want to play, and that might be all that matters in the end.

What do I think will happen? Well, it’s a tough decision. Boston Bruins’ executive (and former superstar) Cam Neely doesn’t like it. Neither does Philadelphia Flyers’ owner Ed Snider. But, the fans and players want the status quo to remain. In the end, it’s the fans who pay the player’s salary and it’s the players who bring the fans to the arenas. If owners hear enough from both of these factions, they’re likely to cave and allow NHL participation to continue. For all of us fans of the game, this would be the best scenario possible.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s