Disappointing but not overly shocking. I think everyone agrees that the Olympics are better with NHL caliber athletes. The drop off between the NHL and the KHL is pretty massive, save for a few guys. Yes Datsyuk would still be a top 6 forward and Kovulchuk would be a top 6 guy but overall there is going to be a huge drop-off.
We have heard current players speak openly about attending the Olympics and how much they wanted to go, now that its official and they won’t be makes me wonder what will happen. Ovechkin will go, already has approval from the Caps owner, but will Stamkos? Crosby? Malkin? Tavares? Kane? Toews? just to name a few of the superstars. These stars may end up going, they may not, but in general this is a loss for the fans.
It also sucks for guys who aren’t on the top lines but would be, in another situation, representing their country. These guys won’t get the publicilty like the studs do but they are just as heartbroken. There are guys who this would be their first and maybe only Olympic games but the selfishness of the NHL and Gary Bettman is getting in the way of that.
Sidenote: Fuck Gary Bettman
Bettman preaches about trying to “grow the game”. What is a better way of growing the game than what T.J Oshie did in Sochi? Now is someone going to step up and be that next catalyst? Maybe, but what happens after? Say a college amateur has a great Olympics and brings a bunch of interest to the sport, where could a new fan follow him, or get his jersey? The answer is no-where because he is an amateur athlete. Will that fan go follow the NHL? Maybe, but I would say there was a better chance of that happening
Now what will happen when the winter Olympics are back in China? China clearly has more people and more reach than South Korea, so Bettman is just going to be back in this same situation. He most likely will say “this is a great opportunity to grow the sport and we would be delighted to join”. It would take huge balls, that Bettman doesn’t have, to simply say “the NHL is no longer going to the Olympics because of the risk of injury to our players”. If that truly was the reason or I could understand it. The reasons that the NHL give are hogwash.
Fuck Gary Bettman
The real issue that the NHL has is who is paying for travel and insurance for these players. Bettman is playing hardball with the IOC to get an upper hand in the next Olympics. It has nothing to do with growing the game, doing what is best for the players, or what is best for the schedule. This move is purely is a selfish that in the long run doesn’t help the NHL, and possibly hurts the NHL.
We are robbed of the best product because the NHL can’t get out of it’s own way. Look at the NBA. Playing in the Olympics is just as much a dream for hockey players as playing in the NHL, depriving that of the players is heinous, especially when it is for the wrong reasons.