I am in Vancouver, BC having the time of my life at the 2010 Winter Olympics. I’ve seen two hockey games so far, including Canada’s tension filled 3-2 shootout victory against the Swiss last Thursday. It was quite the environment to be in, and was by far the best sporting event I’ve ever attended. The hockey has been fantastic, and every game has been competitive.
One hot topic at the Games is whether the NHL should shut down again for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. This is the fourth Olympics that have included NHLers and each time the question of continued participation comes up. There are pros and cons to each side, but I personally hope the NHL continues to come to the Games.
On one side, it is easy to understand the concerns of owners and management. They invest a lot of money in these players, and having them play in the Olympics is a significant risk. The Ottawa Senators Stanley Cup hopes went out the window when Dominik Hasek was injured in the Czech Republic’s first game at the 2006 Olympics in Torino. He never played for the Senators again. The 2 week break in the season can also kill momentum. A team that was playing well before the break may not want the interruption.
However, participating in the Olympics is usually seen by most players as a huge honour. It brings together the top players from each country in a tournament like no other. The NHL break can also serve as a much needed rest period for players who may need time to rest up from nagging injuries.
In all likelihood, the NHL will likely end up going to Sochi. And even if the league decides not to, one of its biggest stars has already stated he is going. Alex Ovechkin has publicly stated that he will be competing for his home nation in 2014, no matter what the consequences. That might be reason enough for the league to head to Sochi.
I believe the NHL will end up going to the next Olympics, but there will be a new Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiated before they take place, so what happens with that is anyone’s guess. But the tournament only happens once every four years, and it is exciting for the players and fans alike. Hopefully it will continue.