Let Them Play, Bettman!

NHL Commissioner, Gary Bettman has not yet decided whether to allow the NHL to participate in the 2014 Olympic Games based on his “high risk for little reward” argument.

At the World Hockey Summit this past week strong arguments were made in favor of NHL players playing for their countries.  Video clips of Sidney Crosby scoring the gold medal winning goal for Canada along with inspiring speeches were among the strategies used.  Almost every audience participant agreed that the benefit of playing in the Olympics for the NHL far outweighs the possibility of player injuries.

The Vancouver Olympic Games were great this past year with all the NHL stars playing highly competitive and exciting games for their countries.  You see players from the same NHL team competing against one another along with lesser known non-NHL players who also add to the excitement.  To know that future Olympic Games will be played without NHL players is to know that each country is not truly represented.

How can a country compete for a gold medal without its best players?  Just because they decided to play professional hockey should not mean they cannot play for their country once every four years. But, Bettman argues that not every NHL organization believes that Olympic participation is necessary and some organizations believe they are assuming too much risk with not enough reward.

The NHL is a league that involves players from all over the world therefore there is interest from all over the world.  The KHL is a highly competitive league in Europe but the NHL is still known to be the most competitive in the world.

It would be a shame to not allow the best players in the world to showcase their talents during the Olympics.  Every other Olympic Game involves the best athletes possible so Ice Hockey should as well.  If you knew there was someone out there faster than Usain Bolt wouldn’t you want to see that man race?

Injuries are always a risk whenever a player steps onto the ice but you can’t run a league based upon risk of injury.  You cannot predict when it will happen you can just hope it doesn’t.  One example given is when Steve Yzerman in 2002 injured his knee during the Olympics and missed the remainder of the NHL season that year.  The Red Wings still went on to win the Stanley Cup.

The NHL has made efforts to expand their audience by playing games overseas and with the Winter Classic on New Years Day.  Participation in the Olympics shows the world how exciting hockey can be when the best are playing against the best.  Team Sweden might not have won the gold without Henrik Lundqvist in net and Team Canada might have won the gold without Sidney Crosby.

To deny NHL players the chance to bring home gold for their country is wrong.


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One Response to “Let Them Play, Bettman!”

  1. ack
    August 26, 2010 at 3:35 pm #

    What is the reward to the NHL for NHL players playing in the Olympics? It’s not the best playing against the best. It’s not that the fans love seeing the competition. What does NHL players playing in the Olympics bring to the NHL? Does it increase interest in the NHL? Did fans in Europe buy more Penguins jerseys because Sidney Crosby scored the gold medal winning goal in overtime? You don’t touch on what the reward is.

    Also of concern is with the next Olympics in Sochi is the time difference. Will the games be broadcast live? We have already seen that when a big event like this is not broadcast live for hockey fans, the ratings suffer. If they are broadcast live, will it be at a time when most fans can watch? With the games in North America, it is easy to get the games on at times people can watch. What was the interest like for Turin?

    “Every other Olympic Game involves the best athletes possible so Ice Hockey should as well.” I disagree with this. Mens Soccer is primarily and Under-23 team with a certain number of over-age players allowed. Sure, it is played in the Summer Olympics, but it is an Olympic sport, and it is not wide open to any athlete participating. Is Olympic baseball wide open, or are there restrictions on it?

    I notice that you did not touch on the other important issue here – the Collective Bargaining Agreement with the NHLPA does not extend through the next Olympics. The reality is that this is something that the players want, and the league can give as a bargaining chip. They can get something for it, so why give it away?

    So, they’re not committed to letting the players go to Sochi now. So what? Does that mean that they won’t? No. They didn’t commit this early before, and there is no reason to commit *right now*.

    You assert that the benefits outweigh the risks, but you haven’t detailed the benefits. You’re playing on emotions, not facts.