From political issues to COVID-19, it seems every day more red flags appear surrounding the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics. Due to these issues, the NHL should not participate in the 2022 Olympics. One option the NHL should consider as an alternate is a World Cup of Hockey tournament played on North American ice. Here are a few reasons a tournament like this would be the best option.
Potenital Boycotts of the Games
The issues with NHL players attending the Olympics go far beyond what happens on the ice. Politicians in Canada and the USA have called for boycotts of the games due to reported Human Rights Violations occurring in China. This could mean that players who play for the Canadian and United States teams would not even choose if they want to participate in the games.
There is also the possibility of players boycotting the events due to public pressure or personal belief. This week, Boston Celtics forward Enes Freedom (formally Enes Kanter) urged Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid to boycott the games. There is also the possibility that some owners may not feel sending their players over to China is the best option due to the issues surrounding Human Rights Violations in China. In short, red flags are going up every day that the NHL may look at and say it is not worth sending our players to these Olympics.
Alternative to the Olympics: The World Cup of Hockey
Instead of flying players to Beijing, the NHL could use the three-week window in the schedule to run a World Cup of Hockey. The tournament, which was last played in 2016, would feature six countries along with a Team Europe and Team North America and still allow the best players in the World to compete for their countries. The tournament could be run in the same style as the Olympics or World Championship but be played on North American ice and with 100 percent of the profit going to the NHL and NHLPA.
The NHL needs a way to recoup some of the money lost during the COVID-19 shutdown, and this may be one option. Running a two-week tournament in packed arenas won’t make up entirely for the money lost over the past year and a half, but it will help. Fans will fly in to see their countries play, and the advertising dollars the NHL could garner may be an incentive all by itself. It is not the same as the Olympics, but this tournament could still be a special event if done right.
As mentioned, the NHL could use the same setup as in 2016. The teams would consist of Canada, the USA, Finland, the Czech Republic, Russia, and Sweden. These teams have already qualified for the Olympics and could field teams based on the number of players currently playing in the NHL. Fans would still get to see Crosby and McDavid take on Auston Matthews and Jack Eichel in an international showdown. The difference is this matchup would be a little closer to home.
Then there are the others, Team Europe and Team North America. Team Europe, who went to the final in 2016, would feature players from countries like Germany, Slovakia, Denmark, and Switzerland, while Team North America would feature players from Canada and the USA, who are under the age of 24 at the end of the tournament. Both teams were big parts of the tournament’s success in 2016 and should be brought back this time around.
The big question from this tournament would be, can Team North America pull off an upset and make the final? The team is stacked but would be without star defenceman Adam Fox as he would turn 24 during the tournament, therefore, would be on Team USA. Here is what a potential lineup would look like.
|Brady Tkachuk||Jack Hughes||Dylan Cozens|
|Alexis Lafrenière||Nick Suzuki||Robert Thomas|
|Jason Robertson||Kirby Dach||Jordan Kyrou|
|Tyson Jost||Trever Zegras||Josh Norris|
|Quinn Hughes||Cale Makar|
|Bowen Byram||Jakob Chychrun|
|K’Andre Miller||Evan Bouchard|
Judging by this lineup, Team North America should turn some heads and even pull off a few upsets throughout the tournament.
Time to Pull the Plug on the Olympics
As mentioned, there are too many potential issues surrounding the upcoming Olympic games. From political pressure to COVID-19 issues around the league, the NHL should stay home. Yes, players will be disappointed, but this decision will be proven to be the right one in the long run. If the NHL and NHLPA hurry, they could still organize a World Cup of Hockey in February, which would be a better outcome for the teams, players, and everyone in the NHL.
Adam is excited to be joining The Hockey Writers as part of the Seattle Kraken and Vancouver Canucks team. His work can also be found at area51sportsnet.com where he covers the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League.