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Is the NHL Smart Enough to Stick with the Olympics?

By August 13, 2008

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With the possible exception of soccer's World Cup, no event in sport rivals the Olympic Games.

It gets a bit tiresome: the media hysterics, manufactured heroes, sentimental blather, and all that nonsense about the Olympic Ideal.

But there is no greater stage. The Olympics are like a drug, hooking millions worldwide, drawing them to the television to watch pole vault, kayaking, synchronized diving, and other sports that only matter once every four years.

That's not good enough for the NHL, where drama, spectacle, national pride and unprecedented TV audiences apparently don't count for much. Reports persist that the league will pull out of Olympic hockey after the 2010 Winter Games.

It's not as if hockey's elite players have a busy international schedule.

Outside the Olympics, the last best-on-best tournament was the 2004 World Cup. There's no word yet on another one.

What's the downside of Olympic hockey? It disrupts the NHL season and hasn't delivered immediate results as a marketing tool. Plus, the players get tired.

Sticking with the Olympic program opens historic possibilities. Think of Crosby and Stamkos facing Ovechkin and Malkin for years to come, or Jonathan Toews versus Patrick Kane in Canada-USA, the sequel.

Gary Bettman would rather worry about the jet lag. Better make sure everybody's in tip-top shape for that February showdown between the Panthers and Blue Jackets.

  • See also: The Olympic Hockey Timeline - A brief history of ice hockey at the Games.

    Photo: Henrik Lunqvist and the Swedes celebrate gold in 2006. (Al Bello/Getty Images)

  • Comments

    August 13, 2008 at 5:52 pm
    (1) GreenHick says:

    I get that the NHL doesn’t get the Olympics and having to shut down mid-season.

    I’d be excited by an under-22 limit for NHL participation. Young guys who are just on the brink of carrying the mail for their teams, but haven’t been burned out by all the checking, and long seasons, and too much ice time. The NHL uses the Olympics to push the next generation into market awareness.

    You might have to allow each team to be able to protect 1 player (sorry Pens), but there should be some price for winning the draft lottery.

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