We continue to hear how the NHL should be more like Olympic hockey or international hockey. They say there’s no fighting or dirty hits, and players can skate more freely leading to more goals. That will make for more exciting hockey. Really? First of all, if it were not for NHL players participating in the games, hockey would have been dead as an Olympic sport.
The international rules (aka: the rules being used in the Olympics) are designed for amateur participants. It’s basically beer-league hockey. I know of at least two leagues in Ontario that adopt similar rules to the international game. I can tell you those games are as fun to watch as paint drying. I can understand if these players had jobs and careers outside of hockey. But for guys like Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Toews, who are paid and trained to play hurt and get their nose dirty, this is well beneath them. Perhaps that is why those two are struggling to score for Team Canada in the tournament because they are not playing with that same edge you see in the NHL. To them, this is not how they play hockey.
The big ice surface at the Olympics is also not making things exciting. It is believed that the bigger ice would offer more room for players to skate. There have been plenty of long stretch passes but very little end-to-end action. Some are also under the impression that the bigger ice would neutralize the so-called neutral zone trap. I’ve got news for you people, the trap was developed in Europe using the 200 by 100 ice dimension. It is practically made for the Olympics. Crosby probably would not have carried the puck in and battled his way to score the “Golden Goal” in Vancouver if it happened on an international-sized rink like the one in Sochi.
As for fighting, many who follow me know I’m of mind that fighting keeps everyone on the ice honest. By threatening to eject players who fight, international rules basically protects the perpetrator and eliminates any fear of retaliation. It’s that fear that makes a player think twice about laying an elbow on an opposing player’s head if they have to fight. While fighting in the NHL does not lead to an ejection, there is a rule that further penalizes a player that initiates a fight. That has reduced fighting to WWE-style staged bouts. But that being said, I’ve seen no one walk out of an arena in disgust when a fight happens. Everyone is cheering their home player during a fight.
I have said it before, true hockey fans, and even those who don’t like the violent nature of the sport, are being turned off by these ongoing attempts to sanitize the game. But I don’t expect the detractors to stop anytime soon. So you still like the international game? Better bring a pillow and some coffee. Or better yet, Red Bull.