I’m probably one of the biggest ice hockey fans you’ll ever meet. The New Jersey Devils are my first love, but I have such an admiration for the game. With that being said, I have very little excitement for men’s ice hockey at the Winter Olympics this time around.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is not well-liked in the hockey community, and with good reason. This is a man who has presided over three NHL lockouts and who has done very little to tap the league’s full potential and grow the sport exponentially. His biggest gaff yet happened a few months ago, when he decided with the league that NHL players and prospects were prohibited from participating in the 2018 Winter Olympics.
This move was unsurprisingly met with a ton of backlash from the fans and players. Superstars like Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby would not be allowed the honor of representing their countries, much to their chagrin. So despite all the negative backlash, why did the Bettman and the owners go through with their decision? The most obvious answer is to protect their investments.
Imagine Patrice Bergeron suffers a broken leg while playing for Team Canada in the Olympics. His season with the Boston Bruins would likely be over and they would lose their best player. Prohibiting these players from the Olympics was done mainly to protect multi-million dollar investments from suffering potentially gruesome injuries and completely changing the dynamic of a team’s season. While it was probably the smart thing to do, it still sucks, especially when you see who’s competing in South Korea.
As an American fan, I was beyond thrilled for this Olympics. The United States was shaping up to have one of its most talented rosters in years, headlined by young superstars such as Auston Matthews and Jack Eichel. Instead, this roster will be composed of veteran retreads and college free agents, captained by the 39 year-old veteran Brian Gionta. While I can appreciate that a lot of these guys are “feel good” stories, I would still prefer the loaded NHL superstar rosters.
It’s not just the USA’s roster that’s disappointing fans. Canada’s roster, which would normally have Jonathan Toews centering its fourth line, is devoid of talent as well. European countries such as Sweden, Finland, and the Czech Republic were affected too. Russia seems to be the only team that has NHL caliber talent because of the KHL. Fortunately for us, they have to represent their country under a neutral flag because of a doping scandal that got Russia banned from the Olympics (*laughs*).
While I love the game of hockey, it’s extremely difficult for me to be excited about men’s ice hockey at the Olympics. This team has me continuously wondering “what could’ve been.” I do hope that they can shut me up and shock the world by bringing home the gold the same way the “Miracle on Ice” team did so many years ago. It’s a tall order, but we as Americans have to believe that it can be done. Prove me wrong, boys.