Should NHL Owners Ban International Play?

With the news of Alexander Ovechkin’s leg injury, at the IIHF World Championship, it makes you wonder when NHL Owners and General Managers will finally wise up and forbid their players from playing in these tournaments. Not only are they doing nothing for the teams that pay them, it’s hurting those organizations when they suffer season ending injuries while representing their countries.

Ovechkin’s injury isn’t the first time a face of an NHL franchise has gotten banged up during this tournament. Eric Staal, of the Carolina Hurricanes, suffered a third degree MCL sprain while playing in this tournament last season. The injury put his availability for the start of the 2013-14 season in jeopardy. For a short time, before the MRI, it sent a shockwave of doubt that Staal could have been lost for a big part of the season; if it was a torn ligament.

Ban International Play

Islanders fans certainly weren’t pleased when seeing this image on their computer or TV screens during the 2014 Olympics, but could Tavares’ injury benefit the Islanders somehow?

If Ovechkin did tear a ligament in his knee, it wouldn’t be the first time in 2014 that a team has lost it’s captain due to an international tournament. During the Sochi Olympics, the New York Islanders saw their captain, John Tavares, fall to a season ending MCL and meniscus tear in his left knee. Islanders general manager Garth Snow spoke out afterwards on his disappointment of having his star player in the Olympic Tournament saying:

“Are the (International Ice Hockey Federation) or (International Olympic Committee) going to reimburse our season-ticket holders now?” Snow told Newsday. It’s a joke. They want all the benefits from NHL players in the Olympics and don’t want to pay when our best player gets hurt. It wouldn’t matter if we were 10 points up on a playoff spot or 10 points out. We lost our best player and he wasn’t playing for us.” (H/T NY Daily News)

Snow is right. Those people have already spent thousands of dollars on the team didn’t get to see their star player for the rest of the season, after being injured in a non-Islanders game. It cheats their fans out of money they’ve already spent to see their best player. It’s not Tavares’ fault he tore his knee. But, it is the fault of the the league and organization for allowing him to play in this tournament.

Hopefully, when the 2018 Winter Olympics come around the NHL doesn’t elect to participate. Before the ’14 games the NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the league isn’t commited to the next winter games saying: “It was a big challenge coming to Sochi and it certainly would be a big challenge if we were to go to South Korea. Player insurance is always a factor with the magnitude and length of player contracts these days, an incredible number of assets at risk. So we haven’t really given any serious consideration to South Korea at all.” (H/T TSN.CA)

From Staal, to Tavares and now Ovechkin, the NHL needs to smarten up and keep their players from these tournaments. They’re not doing anything for the league, and its owners. Plus, they’re robbing their fans from seeing the players they pay to see at the games and on television.

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T.J. McAloon
I've devoted most of my life to being a Pittsburgh sports fan. Currently, I live in Austin with my wife Sarah and our dogs Clooney and Maggie.. But, I had the pleasure of taking in all that is Austin, TX - mostly the Texas Stars American Hockey League franchise - for the past 4 years.
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6 Comments

  1. The owners would have a major fight on their hands if they tried going this route. Despite the ego-centric bubble that Americans live in, events like Worlds and the Olympics are a big deal to these players and to many countries around the world……..or they simply wouldn’t go. Ovechkin is on record saying that if the owners ever tried banning its players from participating in international play that he’d simply just go anyway. They can’t physically stop him. A lot of players would tell their “owners” where they can stick it and be on the next flight out to go be with their countrymen.

    And comments like that from guys like Snow are duplicitous at best. The NHL has been poaching players from places like Russia for many years now. Those Russian hockey schools spend millions developing these players from the time they’re kids all the way up until they’re 18. Parents pay a very nominal fee for hockey and the school covers the rest, including all the equipment. Factor in room/board/travel costs as well which are all covered by the school for years. A lot of time and money is spent developing those players, and then the NHL just swoops in and grabs the best ones before the Russian clubs can see any return on their investment. So trust me, nobody is staying awake at night worrying about NHL teams and their fans “getting their money’s worth”.

  2. That’s only the point of view the owners…

    For players and fans, who need more than that :
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pqW412vWamk

  3. Hockey Fan says:

    So, it is “allowed” then to get injured in the NHL games but not in the Worlds’? Seriously. NHL players are not slaves and their fans are not only those that are watching NHL games only. Hockey is a Sport and not just a show for getting money. Hockey doesn’t exists for the USA fans only. NHL players come from all over the world and that’s what gives NHL the higher lever of professionalism. It’s quite possible that if the team USA wasn’t loosing as much as they do now the Worlds would be “a very important championship” for the author of this article and for those who share his POV. When was the last time when USA won in the World Championship? BTW, USA should thank Russia for they win over Germany and USA can actually make it to the Quaterfinals now.
    In any case NHL players should be allowed to play for their their countries. Especially in Worlds.

    It’s very sad that Ovechkin got injured. He is a great player, a great captain and I hope he will recover soon. Get well, Ovi!

  4. Sorry, 8-4 after losing Game 1 to the Blackhawks.

  5. Ha, thanks for the read and paying attention to my post on Jonathan Quick. You can thank me for the Kings going 8-3 since that column.

  6. You should learn to proofread your articles before you post. Or at least proofread the title so it forms a full sentence, “Should NHL Owners Put a Ban International Play?”

    Sorry, I’m probably just holding an unfair grudge after how bad your article on Jonathan Quick was last month.

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