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Breaking For The Olympics Is The Right Move

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Well hi!  Welcome to the best site for Olympic hockey coverage, assuming you like it covered once a day and with Canadian bias.  You do?  Cool.

*****

Don't worry Iggy, linemates are coming!

Olympic hockey is unparalleled. 

After each of my college seasons, the team would agree to meet once or twice a week for a shinny game, Canada vs. “Planet” USA.  Without fail, the game would end up at least semi-serious and way too intense, so it’s easy to understand why involving the pride of every person in the country really ramps things up.  It’s also really fun that we all get to pretend that the winner of one game (see: February 21st, Canada vs. USA) is better at hockey for the next four years.

I’ve heard sports pundits talk about how bad the Olympic break  is for the NHL, how no other league would do this, and a million other reasons why it shouldn’t happen again in four years.

F**k that.

No other sport has the opportunity to do something like this.  There’s no American Football in the Olympics because it’s simply that – American.  The Saints aren’t “World” champions.  They’re the best in a 30 team American league that was created by Americans and filled by Americans.  It’s no slight against football  (or the Saints) – I’m just saying, it’s a lot harder for a nation to dominate a sport (and get their players in the world’s best league) when like, 30 countries take the sport seriously, and in hockey’s case, the NHL is the holy grail for every kid who plays the game.

To then have the opportunity to weigh different countries contributions to that amazing league in a tournament, is unrivaled.  Baseball is doing it wrong – if their professional players went to the Summer Olympics, how much love would that event get?  Nothing is like the actual Olympics, despite baseballs effort with the… what’s it called, World Baseball Classic?  And baseball might need to send it’s pro’s soon - their sport is the one losing it’s grip on “interesting”, not hockey.

And what would basketball do if the Olympics were mid-season?  How much do the fans love the “dream team” talk?  It’s such a shock to Americans when their teams get shelled by Argentinian fundamentals, because there isn’t quite the partiy in basketball as their is in hockey (I know US basketball has found ways to lose before, but I still wouldn’t call chalk up their international struggles to “parity”) – we genuinely can’t guarantee Canada or anyone will be in the top three – just look at 2006, or as it’s known in Canada, “2002″ (since we refuse to acknowledge our 7th place finish four years ago ever happened). 

Ahhh, sweet glory.

So wouldn’t basketball break to have the world’s best players partake, given the fan support for their current US gold medalists?  Doesn’t it void the magnitude of the Olympics if its a competition of the world’s best athletes *asterisk exceptallthosebetterplayers?

They probably would send their players, for fear of losing patriotic players, the same way Ovechkin says he’ll play in Russia in 2014 if the NHL won’t let it’s players participate.  It means that much to guys, I think moreso in hockey than in any other sport because the dressing rooms are so diverse.  It’s a chance to prove what they’ve been “joking” about for years to each other.

Hockey has the unique opportunity to showcase the game at it’s best, at it’s most Carcillo-less level of pure.  It can showcase it’s international diversity, and most important, it can demonstrate the passion and emotion this game brings out of people.  Football is the only other sport that gets people this fired up for the entire length of a game.  Basketball and baseball often seems like they’re being performed by talented big people who only try hard when they need to and for themselves, not for a team.

Olympic hockey, to simplify, is everything that’s good about our game.  Any negatives that come from stopping the NHL season for a couple weeks can be dealt with.  This means too much to pass up.

Comments

18 Responses to “Breaking For The Olympics Is The Right Move”
  1. Jimmy says:

    Cool! Let me be the first to agree *uc* that! I’m not gonna worry bout 2014. Assuming the NHLPA can get their act together long enough, the NHL will just hafta suck it up…Olympic hockey is the best by far. If you recall the NHL tried a preemptive strike years back with their World Cup. The biggest differences were that it was held in the summer when the players were staring straight at a long, hard season AND it wasn’t the Olympics.

    Justin, I’d also love to see a second Canadian team added to the mix. I know it’ll never happen but think of it! Puckin awesome! And other countries shouldn’t cry foul either. It would actually enhance their chances of medaling. Canada vs Canada…They’d end up killing each other.

  2. MikeB says:

    Did you see the Sens beat the Isles?

    But its a good sign when everyone on the team admits that anything but gold will be a massive disappointment.

  3. Mike says:

    I love the Olympics. I could watch it all day no matter what sport. It could be competitive basket weaving and I would chant U-S-A, U-S-A. A great show of sportsman ship all around.

  4. thomas says:

    spot on, justin. international tournament hockey can be as exciting as it is beautiful. stripped of the goonery of the nhl, playmaking and gamesmanship come to the fore. don’t misunderstand me, i love the slog of the nhl season, and playoff hockey through the stanley cup finals is my favorite time of year. but watching the best players in the world play for their country as if it’s their last game of their lives is pretty f**king awesome.

    by threatening not to participate in sochi, mr. bettman tips his hand in not having the best interest of hockey in mind. participation in the olympics creates excitement and interest in hockey, and the nhl by extension given the participation of its stars. likewise, the exact opposite is achieved by not participating.those of us who participate at every available level are content with hockey being a niche sport. we will always watch any game, any time, and lace up at any opportunity. but if he really wants to grow the sport, mr. bettman must allow its best players showcase their skills on the international stage of the olympics.

  5. karlooch says:

    Yes. This Olympics looks to be exciting and Canada is the heavy favorite. However, if it goes down in Vancouver the same way as the World Juniors did in Saskatoon all of Canada should have to tee off with their drawers down for the first shot of the upcoming golf season kinda like when you don’t hit it past the ladies tees.

  6. JDP says:

    The Olympics are like a two week long allstar tournament, with checking and actual hockey being played. No offense to the corporate-schmoozing shinnyfest that the “all star” weekends bring us, but this is what it’s all about: the best of the best going all out for national pride. Anyone who has spent time in a multicultural dressing room knows the amount of good-natured shit talk that goes on between guys from different countries, so this is absolutely a huge issue. The NHL is dangling Sochi as a giveback for the pending labor issue (so glad to have THAT back in our lives, arent we?), but they’ll let the players go. Bettman can’t unscramble the eggs at this point, because there are too many players that will thumb their noses at suspensions, and too many owners (Leonsis) who are willing to hold their breath for two weeks to keep their stars happy.

    USA!

  7. jtbourne says:

    Great comment JDP. The only thing I’d add is, it’s great to see the best players in the world, (minus the riff-raff) going all out for anything. Seriously, it’s like whittling the NHL down to the best six teams (obviously missing a bunch of guys, but still). Maybe it’s time for a ten team league above the current NHL? that’d be dope.

  8. Beer:30 says:

    “Football is the only other sport that gets people this fired up for the entire length of a game.”

    You know that game where people kick around the round ball with the black speckles on it? I think people get worked up over that one. Riots, murders and the like. But it seems to be only places where … umm … people don’t have North American hockey. Indicator of North American superiority? I think so.

  9. jtbourne says:

    Ha, well yeah. I meant of the “major four” as we see it here on this continent. Soccer has the major four beat into merciless submission in just about every category in the world if we start taking polls.

  10. Pat says:

    It’s definitely going to be an interesting debate for a couple years. I think it really comes down to two major dilemmas.

    1. The NHLPA vs. the NHL vs. the NHL Owners. The owners don’t want their investments (players) hurt, the NHL wants the good PR, and the NHLPA guys want to play for their colors. The owners face major risk, as they don’t have anything tangible to gain with their players participating, but have a lot to lose in the form of a serious injury.

    2. Logistics of travel. Despite popular opinion, Sochi isn’t Siberia, but it’s not easy to get to either. Check a map. I’d say probably at least 12 hours on a plane. That much travel is going to make for stiff hockey players (minds out of the gutters) that will be prone to injury.

    I don’t blame Ovechkin or anyone else that wants to play, but I think there’s a lot to get worked out for that to happen.

  11. JDP says:

    Pat

    I agree with most of what you’re saying. The only part I disagree with is a partial disagreement, but it’s going to be compelling to watch. I think you’re partially right about how the owners see the Olympics, especially eight years after the apex of the NHL-in-the-Olympics moment (US-Canada for the gold). You have to consider that the original reason that Bettman said he wanted NHL players in the Olympics to begin with is increased exposure for the stars of the league to non-traditional fans. I’m guessing Gary and the owners never counted on the networks kicking their guys to the curb in favor of ice dancing, and having the gall to cater to what a majority of their audience want to begin with (cute stories, cuter athletes, and dramatic individual situations). I’m also guessing Gary and Co. never intended on extending their participation in the Games beyond 2010, at least until the next time they were held in a North American venue.

    One other thing they didn’t count on? Yep…the players, once they got the taste of that international big-stage blood, weren’t about to give up the chance to play for their countries without a fight. And that’s one of two big problems for the BUSINESS-minded owners in the NHL (MLSE, Dolan, Kroenke, Jacobs). The other one is that owners like Ted Leonsis (who would shave his head and dress in a clown suit to make Ovechkin happy) and Mario Lemieux (who knows how important it is to a guy to play for his country in such a situation) aren’t going to fight their players to keep them from playing in the Olympics. Do you really think Gary is going to war with Mario Lemieux over whether Sid Crosby can play in Sochi? This is a non-issue, a smoke screen, and the players and agents know it.

  12. Jonathan says:

    “Doesn’t it void the magnitude of the [World Juniors] if its a competition of the world’s best athletes *asterisk exceptallthosebetterplayers?”

    FTFY

  13. Aces Arbitrage says:

    Your thoughts? http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=517731

    GO USA!!

  14. Sioux says:

    JT, you see Jocelyn Lamoureux’s goal for the USA womens yesterday?

  15. Of course having NHL players in the Olympics has made for great hockey. But I think it causes too much of a disruption to the league. The schedule being compressed so there are way too many instances of back-to-back nights, three games in four nights…I think it affects the quality of play. And how does it really benefit the league? I don’t think it’s…what’s that phrase? Right — “growing the game.” Die-hard hockey fans watch the sport no matter what. Casual fans may tune into the Olympics but they aren’t going to watch the NHL on Versus. I think the Winter Classic has done more to “grow the game” than the Olympics.

  16. Madeleine says:

    well said Justin, well said.

  17. dwgs says:

    And if Bettman does keep the NHL out of Sochi who will gain the most? The KHL, that’s who. Clever Gary, very clever.

  18. Sioux in the Cities says:

    What a great goal that was by Jocelyn. Getting me excited to watch the rest of their games starting tonight, in addition to the men’s game this afternoon.

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