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.