The NHL is in quite a predicament right now. The game is soaring and attendance for games are at an all time high. The one big circumstance that could hold up all future negotiations in regards to the collective bargaining agreement is Olympic participation.
The 1984 Winter Olympic games was the last time amateurs were used for hockey participation. In 1988 the IOC Olympic committee started using semi pros for hockey for the winter games. Eventually, professional hockey players were first introduced to playing for their home countries during the 1998 Nagano Winter games. This trend has continued to the most recent 2014 Winter Olympic games in Sochi, Russia.
On November 16, 2016 the commissioner of hockey Gary Bettman proposed a 3 year extension to the collective bargaining agreement that expires on September 15, 2022, in exchange for professionals to be used in the sport of hockey during the 2018 Winter Olympic games in South Korea. On December 4, 2016 the NHLPA rejected Bettman’s proposal. Many fans and NHL players alike wonder what are the big issues when someone volunteers to play for their home country. Weighing the pros and cons could be one answer to the question.
1. Using familiar players in the Olympics brings a lot of positive attention to the sport.
2. Ratings, ratings, ratings.
3. Young future superstars can dream again about playing the sport of hockey, bringing revenue and growth to the sport.
4. 10 days worth of rest for players not playing in olympics
2. Travel expenses to be paid by the NHL.
The main hold up according to Gary Bettman are how to pay the travel expenses and insurances. Easing the owners minds on injuries if they occur is never easy either. However, many players are for Olympic participation. Jake Voracek from the Flyers stated in 2014,
“Once every four years I don’t think its going to hurt to go to the olympics, its a great experience to represent your country in the Olympics.”
His current teammates Michael Raffl and Mark Streit are also in favor, while Czech Republic star, Jake Voracek has a more vocal opinion on the matter, two years after the quote listed above:
“You found a way to squeeze those games in before, I don’t see any reason we wouldn’t be able to do it for this,” Voracek said. “They’ve just got to find a way. It can’t be that hard. … We want to play hockey, they want us to play hockey, they want to put us in the Olympics, so let us go to Olympics.”
Even former Flyer James Van Riemsdyk acknowledges just how special the event really is.
“It’s so hard to make an Olympic team,” said van Riemsdyk, the Toronto Maple Leafs winger who tied for third in scoring at the Sochi Games. “On that stage too, it’s bigger than just the sport of hockey and just yourself; there’s so many other athletes and things there. Just to get a chance to be a part of all that was really special.”
According to the Washington Post, the NHL has to come to a decision in the coming weeks. Gary Bettman said they would have to have a decision in place by the latest early January. As we wait and hold our breaths until the final decision is made I ponder a quote from Herb Brooks,
“We should be dreaming. We grew up as kids having dreams, but now were too sophisticated as adults, as a nation. We stopped dreaming. We should always dream.”
So I leave my readers the final question and please feel free to comment. Should the NHL allow their players to play in the olympics or give amateur players a chance to dream again by representing their nation?
Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports