The Canadian Olympic Men’s Ice Hockey was recently announced. The names don’t necessarily strike fear into the minds of the opponents. But with no current NHL players in this year’s games in South Korea, all the teams will feature a roster of grizzled veterans, young college stars, and some who were not good enough to score a gig in the NHL.
We will not be getting a short tournament featuring the best hockey players in the world. The NHL made that clear in 2017 when they could reach an agreement with the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF). It is a shame that backroom politics is preventing hockey fans from seeing the best hockey players in the world competing in the Winter games in PyeongChang. But it is not the end of the world. Depending how this year’s tournament fares, it will either hasten or slow down negotiations between the NHL and IIHF to reach an agreement for the next Winter Olympic games in Beijing in 2022.
For a long time, there has been an argument that no professional athletes should be competing in the Olympics (either summer or winter). Those people who like to keep the game pure are going to get their wish this year. At least in hockey.
The biggest complaint of NHL players at the Olympics is the two-week stoppage during the season. That to me is a moot point. There is simply no way around that obstacle. But I also understand there is a need to have some hockey played in North America. Which is why there was little objection when the Winter Olympics were in Salt Lake City in 2002 and Vancouver in 2010. Fans got to watch games either late in the afternoon or early in the evening. With the games in South Korea, the time difference will be a huge factor. PyeongChang is 14 hours ahead of Toronto. Which means a hockey game played at 6 PM there will air at 2 AM here. Many people would not be able to watch the men’s hockey tournament unless you are an insomniac.
With no Connor McDavid or Auston Matthews, this will give hockey fans an opportunity to see players that we don’t get to see on a nightly basis. There have been those who played Olympic hockey who end up becoming high-caliber NHL players. Ken Morrow is one example. He played for the 1980 US team that won gold in Lake Placid. Morrow went on to play for the New York Islanders during their Stanley Cup dynasty.
I doubt that not having NHL players at the Olympics this year will cause a riot. There is simply much bigger fish to fry. There is a saying absence makes the heart grow fonder. Perhaps, taking a break from seeing professional hockey players at the Olympics will make us realize why we like to see them play in the first place.