The Olympics are going on and there’s hockey in those Olympics, but the NHL isn’t there, so people are split. There’s some who are going to watch the hockey because it’s hockey, there’s some who will watch out of spite to the NHL, there’s some who won’t watch at all because of the time difference.
However, with the 4-0 loss by the USA to the Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR), some people seem to quickly blame the NHL for the shortcomings of what USA Hockey is doing. One of those people is Alex Kirshner of SB Nation who suggested that NHL should be at fault for pretty much screwing over the USA and Canadian Olympic teams. Kirshner said while the NHL was right to not attend the games because of the CBA, it’s a short-term decision to worry about the league rather than worldwide appeal…though it still hasn’t gotten that from the past couple games and the IOC is hellbent on keeping the property to themselves rather than let the NHL have highlights to show and promote the game, but that’s another story entirely.
Kirshner suggests that because USA Hockey has all their talent in the NHL, the team didn’t have a chance because other countries have players are playing high level overseas and the USA has someone like Chris Bourque (undersized), Brian Gionta (undersized and old), Matt Gilroy (good in college, meh elsewhere) and college players, who in the past wouldn’t have made the team if the NHL was around (Troy Terry, Jordan Greenway).
But how is any of this on the NHL?? USA Hockey seems to have an underlying mantra of “NHL or Bust” when their players are in their system. The USA Hockey side of things preach development through the youth leagues, into college or juniors, then into the NHL. Doesn’t seem like much is made about the professional leagues in Europe being just as good indicators of talent for players– but something that seems to be often overlooked by the players and the heads of USA Hockey. When you only focus on the NHL as the end goal rather than elsewhere, the players are going to take that to heart.
Other nations don’t seem to have that issues. As pointed out by Kirshner, Russia had nine players in the last Olympics from the KHL and other nations need to fill the roster with other leagues when they don’t have enough NHL talent. (If you want to have NHL talent in international competition, then you need to support the farce of a tournament that is the World Cup of Hockey.)
My point is that when you only focus on the NHL while not giving any acknowledgement about how much an experience the leagues overseas could be for some players, then you are selling your players and your organization short when it comes to something like this. There’s a reason why a lot of European teams were ranked highly to win Gold, because they have a focus outside of the NHL that not many countries have. Canada has a little bit of that in going to tournaments like the Spengler Cup, but Hockey Canada is just as much to blame if they falter for not showing off the European leagues as a destination and focusing mainly on the NHL for their talent as the pinnacle of sport.
Given they all came together a short time again (unlike years where they had traveling National teams for a year-plus before the games), they have played alright given the situation they’ve been thrown into. It’s almost a reason for nations to not want to have the NHL there anymore because then they can actually gauge how successful their amateur development has been. If you just heavily rely on the Golden Goose to produce for you, you get complacent and then panic when it’s not longer shooting out gold bars.