It is hard to focus on hockey since other sports are more prominent at this time, but it is worth a look at the upcoming Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in February 2018. The headlines have been created by the National Hockey League, or NHL, restricting its players from playing in the Olympics. This yielded cries of complaint from fans and players against the league. This prompted me to dissect both sides of the story and determine which points each case made.
Let them play!
Athletes and fans claim that is it completely and brutally unfair to restrict players from being able to serve their country in an event that takes place once every four years. Players only get one or two chances to get this type of world attention and experience. The Olympics truly cannot compare to NHL games or even the Stanley Cup. The roughly seven game suspension for competing in the Olympics is a tall price to pay for many of the athletes who genuinely want to play in the worldwide event. The penalty applies not only to NHL players, but also athletes to athletes in the professional minor league teams. This diminishes the overall talent in the Olympics which is truly disappointing considering that hockey is a main highlight in the games. Luckily, several NHL players including Russian star Alex Ovechkin, openly came out to state that they would be willing to face the punishment to compete in the games; this exemplifies how the players greatly care about this event. Lastly, the league allowed players to compete in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics but are NOW putting the restriction on the athletes. The league is too late, unfair and just plain wrong.
Although there is outcry for the players, it is truly in the athletes’ best interest to not take time off from the NHL season. Heading to the Olympics can ruin chemistry between players and also crush the momentum of a superstar team. With some of the players representing their country and others not making the national team, many NHL athletes will not be able to play hockey games during the Olympic time frame which can span over a few weeks. That is a long break for players and teams when the season is winding down, the playoff races are heating up and momentum is at full force. This is a tough business decision for the league to make, but sometimes the law has to come down and traditions have to change. Finally, as a result of professional athletes not competing, younger, talented hockey players will be given an extraordinary experience to play in the Olympics.
It is an extremely intriguing situation and the scenario should clear up as the Olympics approach. However, the players do not appear to be backing down from their stand and neither does the league. This raises the question, how far will the athletes go to play in the Winter Olympics? Only time can tell.
Sources: Featured Image