The 2014 Sochi Olympics are right around the corner and the NHL is taking a two-week break to allow their players to represent their countries. However, the five hundred pound elephant sitting in the middle of the room is this: what happens if one of the league’s marque players goes down with a season ending injury? Not only that, but how does a Stanley Cup contender, like the Chicago Blackhawks, rebound if they lose one of their key players in a game that had nothing to do with them?
Luckily, for the NHL, since they started allowing their players to play in the Olympics in 1998 there hasn’t been an injury that has submarined a team when play resumed. However, according to The Guardian the Olympics have sent some players back to their squads banged up saying:
Though the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver were reasonable on that front – only 22 injuries were recorded – you only have to look back to 2006 to see how bad things can get. That year, the International Ice Hockey Federation recorded 47 injuries at the Turin Games. Though that still seems low, the names on the sweaters were important. Most prominent of all was the Senators goaltender Dominik Hasek, who suffered a groin injury that kept him out of the lineup back in Ottawa, introducing us all to a younger Ray Emery. Before he left for the Games, Hasek was tied for second-best in both GAA (2.09) and save percentage (.925) in the NHL.
This fear, of what could happen, has kept the NHL from committing to the 2018 Olympics in South Korea. In an interview with the Associated Press, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said:
“The North American experiences have been better than far-away Olympics for a host reasons, including exposure. When you have a North American-based Olympics, you can have a shorter period without NHL games. We’re going to have the longest break we’ve ever had, and that could interrupt momentum for teams and have an effect on their competitiveness based on how many players they have playing, and how many injuries they have in Sochi.”
With the long break, plus travel across the world to Russia, and the chance of season-ending injury, why is the
NHL is allowing their players to play in this tournament? It’s not making any money for the league or their franchises. It seems as if the risk outweighs the reward for these teams. Furthermore, front offices do not see any gain if one of their players coming back with a Gold, Silver or Bronze medal. Owners, General Mangers and Coaches have everything to lose when they send their players to the Olympics.
You never saw Major League Baseball take time away from their season to allow their players to participate in the Summer Olympics. Hopefully, when 2018 comes around the NHL will follow suit and keep their players away from a competition that has no impact on the season.
So let’s leave on this question. What would you rather have: a Stanley Cup Championship, or, a player on your team with a Gold Medal?
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