A little over a week ago, we posted a poll asking your opinion on the NHL’s participation in the 2014 Olympic games in Sochi, Russia. The vote total was almost split right down the middle, but the vote not to participate beat out the vote to participate six-to-four. And for good reason. There’s a lot to disagree with when it comes to the NHL taking time off to let players either rest potentially too much or risk injury playing for their home countries. But the NHL has to continue to participate as long as it’s requested it do so.
The game of hockey isn’t just about America or Canada. Heck, it’s not even just about America, Canada, Sweden and Russia. Hockey is about every corner of this globe that could produce the world’s next great hockey player. And even if one corner doesn’t produce the next best hockey player, it may produce the next Jack Adams or Scotty Bowman. To make the game and the NHL successful, the sport has to stretch around the world and appeal to a wide range of people.
Will the NHL lose money during the 12 days the league pauses for the Games? Sure. Will it be enough of an impact to turn franchises upside down? No way. Yes the break gives those not participating a good chance to get a break, heal and revive before the closeout of the season, and you can call that laziness if you’d like. Yes the Games provide those playing an increased risk of injury, and you can call that ignorance. But more importantly, there’s a good chance for those playing to improve their games, get even more motivated to finish out the season strong and show to the world why they’re worthy to play for their country, and especially the NHL.
And when it really boils down to it, the break only happens every four years. Sure it sucks that this time it’ll be the year after a half-season lockout, but that situation won’t rear its ugly head for almost another three Olympic cycles.
Above all else, the opportunity to play in the Olympics builds camaraderie across the league. Enemies become frenemies, even if only for a brief moment. And even after teammates go their separate ways, the brevity of what happened throughout the 12 days spent in their country’s colors creates a bond that’s hard to break. Playing in the Olympics highlights the world’s best athletes and if those athletes come from the NHL, that’s where good prospective hockey players will want to be.
The Olympics provides sports fans worldwide an opportunity to cast aside the cross-cultural international disputes and enjoy the one thing that can really bring us all together. That’s what the Olympic Games are all about, and that’s why the NHL must continue to participate.