NHL – foregoing the Olympics maybe a good thing for hockey

Chicago, IL — I’ve said for years the NHL is the NHL’s own worse enemy and in this past week they made the announcement that NHL players would not participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.

Now anyone that follows this blog knows I was a big proponent for the NHL to go for a lot of reasons.

I think they are doing a huge disservice to their fans and players.

I only hope this does not come back to bite them in contract negotiations in 2020 with the NHLPA but one has to think that it will but I’m praying I am wrong.

I still believe the NHL has just missed out on a huge opportunity to market their sport internationally to new fans. I still do not understand how you can pass this up with the majority of the planet watching.

Yes it is inconvenient that your sport has to stop for 2-3 weeks but for this time hockey and the NHL would have a captive audience which now they can not say will be the case as some of us will be watching the Olympics.

But so be it NHL you have made your rink now go skate on it.

I being a positive person look to the big picture and just maybe this will be the best thing for hockey on a global scale.

There is no question the Olympic hockey will not be as good without the NHL players, but that is not to say it won’t be as emotional and compelling to watch or even more so.

On a macro level by the NHL not participating maybe it will give the world and particularly North America a spotlight on some overlooked hockey like the AHL, NCAA, CHL, Women’s hockey, European leagues and yes even the KHL.

Coincidentally this week the NCAA Frozen Four championship was held in Chicago at the United Center and by the way Congratulations to the Denver Pioneers for capturing the NCAA title and the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs for making it to the finals.

Watching these young men compete and their skill gives me hope for USA hockey and I have no doubt that if the USA is represented by these young men we will be repped very well.

As I have said hockey in the USA at a grass-roots level has never been better.

Would they be at a huge disadvantage if they were to play a Russian National team comprised of professional KHL players yes but the USA has been there before.

It could also be debated that what actually helped hockey’s popularity in the US was not due to the NHL but in fact due to some American college kids who knew nothing but to listen to their coach and just give until they dropped and were fearless.

It’s arguable but there probably is no more compelling hockey story than the 1980 Miracle on Ice team USA and no team may have advanced the sport of hockey as much as that team in the USA.

It’s also notable this weekend was the start of the KHL’s Gagarin Cup Final. I happened to catch game 1 with St. Petersburg SKA representing the west versus east Metallurg Magnitogorsk based in Magnitogorsk, Chelyabinsk Oblast, Russia.

Game one saw SKA take it 5-4 and let me say I was highly entertained watching this game.

The game saw two players ejected one for Metallurg-  Oskar Osala and one for SKA, a very familiar name to NHL fans the SKA captain Ilya Kovalchuk. The game saw Evgenii Dadonov score two markers for SKA that led the charge for SKA to victory.

Perhaps though as an American sports fan the most riveting event was the IIHF Women’s World Championship that took place Saturday night in Plymouth, MI that saw team USA defeat their bitter rival Team Canada.

The women first had to fight USA hockey for equitable terms and almost boycotted the event, but luckily an agreement was met and the women then had to put politics behind them and put hockey to the forefront and go win a championship.

I’ve got to say the women did the USA proud not only on the ice but maybe more importantly off the ice for the future of not only women’s hockey but the game as a whole.

Women’s sporting events do not get much coverage on major networks. I remember really the only women’s sporting events you saw in the US were women’s tennis and golf.

Now I am not a golf person but tennis I do like. I can always remember it being said of the women’s game that the “ladies” played a nice game of tennis but it was not comparable to the men’s.

Hello have you watched Billi Jean King or Chris Evert or Martina Navratilova play and today the Williams sisters.

Anyone who thinks these athletes are not every bit as competitive as their male counterparts you have not been paying attention.

You think Serena doesn’t have killer instinct to battle her sister one on one? Please spare me she may have more than any sports male athletes.

The same holds true for women’s hockey these are competitive athletes that hate to lose no matter who the opponent is.

I for one can’t wait to see the USA vs Canada again for a rematch it should be epic.

The IIHF championship was full of pace skill and it was only fitting it went to OT. You may never have heard the names Hillary Knight, Amanda Kessel, Kacey Bellamy, Meghan Duggan or Nicole Hensley but maybe you will soon.

I guarantee if you watch these athletes you’ll be better for it.

I want to thank the NHL Network for airing these games in the US even though it was TSN Canadian coverage you have to start somewhere. I think you need more programming to include the women’s games people are interested and if hockey is truly for everyone then show the women’s games too.

As a side note why is there not a professional women’s hockey team in Chicago? I think we need one.

So to grow the game of hockey you don’t need the NHL maybe it will be better served and more relatable to everyone if the NHL is not involved at the Olympics.

It would be ironic if it was the CHL, NCAA that reached the youth in North America or the Women Professional hockey players that reached little girls everywhere to play hockey and maybe it will be the European leagues and the KHL that advances hockey worldwide.

It’s just a shame that the NHL players won’t be a part of something that is happening that could be great for their sport but putting the light on these other lesser known athletes may just be what the world and hockey needs.

Most professional male sports leagues are driven by money as they are businesses but that is not inspiring.

It seems the owners and the league simply can’t put aside their businessmen hats and just be fans or love the game on its own terms.

It could be a good thing because maybe just maybe, the Olympics should remain pure and done simply for the love of the games not with any agendas except to win for one’s country.

As a hockey fan and writer I can find a story in almost anything.

The absence of the NHL players who we are already familiar with will give the world stories on extraordinary athletes and people we might never get the chance to know but now thanks to the NHL not going we will.

Hockey is too great a game to be kept back or held down even by the NHL.  So whoever is donning that team USA jersey for both the men and the women this hockey fan will be all in cheering GO USA!




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