The controversy hasn’t reached full proportion because the NHL doesn’t want to steal the thunder of the current Olympic games. But when the Sochi games end, expect the subject of NHL players continuing to play in the Olympics to hit epic proportion.
When the NFL season ends, NHL owners no longer have to compete for viewers and fans. But every fourth year, the winter Olympics roll around and the NHL season gets interrupted and the player’s head off to represent the NHL in the Olympics.
There’s the potential for injury, not to mention some teams have little representation in the Olympics, so their players get a nice 2-week break. Other teams, like the Chicago Blackhawks for example, have nearly half their roster in the Olympics and they get no rest at all. NHL officials consider this a competitive disadvantage when the NHL season resumes.
When New York Islander John Tavares blew out his knee for the Canadians in the Olympic quarterfinal game against Latvia, he was lost for the season. That means the Islanders are on the hook for his salary, despite the fact that he was injured in the Olympics.
On the flip side, how many Americans watched last Saturday’s U.S. shootout victory over Russia? How many of those are not fans of the NHL, but liked what they saw that Saturday morning when St. Louis Blues star T.J. Oshie scored four shootout goals to lead the United States to victory. How many of those people just might tune into the NHL after the fact and perhaps become fans?
It’s free publicity for Commissioner Gary Bettman and the NHL. It’s an opportunity to grow his product. All because the NHL players, who by the way want to continue playing in the Olympics, are playing for their countries in the Olympics.
It’s only every four years. Surely the NHL and its ownership group can make the sacrifice in return from some publicity for their product that they couldn’t buy anywhere.
I talked with colleague Bill Pollock from the Missouri Radio Network about these topics in the following video.