On The Topic Of Olympic Hockey Without the NHL

I am glad the NHL isn’t going to the Olympics. Since 1998, I don’t think I’ve ever bought into the whole “best vs. the best” ideal because if they’re the best and they’re playing in the NHL…aren’t we getting that on a nightly basis?? Can’t they do that at the World Championships??

However, there are some people– maybe rightfully so– annoyed with the NHL not going. Pavel Bure went so far in saying that the NHL doesn’t care about growing the game of hockey, they’re only caring about their league business.

While I can understand what Bure is trying to get at, it’s not just the NHL’s burden to carry in growing the sport. They are the most recognizable league for sure, but in the world we live in today; the interest in hockey can be taken in by anyone with an internet connection and the desire to watch the NHL or any other hockey for that matter. Other than maybe a passing bump post-Olympics, the idea it would create a boom for hockey just because the NHL is there never really jived with me overall. Always seemed like the NHLPA used it as the possibility of a huge ratings bump when it doesn’t seem to happen.

The Olympics have never really benefited the NHL, aside from the players being associated with the league. They don’t have any media rights to the coverage, they can’t use any photos or videos to help promote, and it turns an already long season into even more of a marathon. Luckily, this season; the perfect storm of COVID cases, the Games being in China (which many North American fans wouldn’t tune in live to watch games), and the threat of a five-week quarantine if someone were to test positive gave the NHL and NHLPA the no-brainer decision on skipping out of this one.

And, like I said before– I’m glad they’re not. The 2018 Games were fun with the plucky German crew having a couple big upsets on their way to Silver, the Olympic Athletes from Russia taking home their first goal medal as the OAR and the first for that area of the world since the Unified Team won it in 1992. It showcased players like Kirll Kaprizov before he made it to the NHL, while also bringing older players that many may have forgotten to take part– allowing them to live their dream that they may have thought as being impossible due to the NHLers going out for the Olympics. The Hockey News’ Steven Ellis wrote about it better than I’m putting out there.

One point I will bow to is the one that non-traditional hockey nations can benefit from being on the same ice as NHLers from more developed hockey nations. You could argue that Italy’s entry in 2006 help that country grow a little in terms of having more competitive hockey despite some the team being from Canada. The South Koreans were gearing up as if they were going to face NHLers for 2018 before it didn’t happen. Teams like Germany, Norway, Belarus, Slovenia have been matured on the big stage, as well. Hell, they almost ousted the host nation because they didn’t know if they’d be embarrassed or not against NHLers for this one.

The NHL’s participation is not the end-all, be-all for men’s hockey. Hey, who knows– the Games as a whole could be pushed back a year and then the NHL can get back into it. It has happened before and could happen again for this. Even then, I’ll still stand by my thought that the NHL and the Olympics are better off for not crossing the streams for the near future.

TEPID TAKE: The Reboot

Okay, let’s just take a step back to process the craziness about what the NHL rolled out Tuesday in regards to ending the 2019-20 season. I won’t get into the Draft Lottery too much because…well, I need a team of scientist to decipher it. But the reboot of the season– this is something that’s been polarizing with a good amount of people on the “what are you thinking side of things” for one reason or another.

Before it’s started, the biggest thing is that this can all be dissolved by the players, who will need to collectively bargain this roll out. If they say no, then it’s done and you can’t blame them because even with the NHL saying they’ve got enough kits to test every day…still some people are going to be apprehensive, rightfully so; especially with the failures of some tests and testing labs.

In any case, the regular season is done in the biblical sense. The NHLPA still said that the “qualification” rounds may have stats count towards the regular season totals before the post-season totals count. It’s a bit odd considering that it’s a playoff scenario, but not really a playoff since other teams are playing for positioning at the top of the table– but let’s not let that get in the way of a confusing roll-out.

Hub Cities (TM) are still to be determined with 10 finalists being there and waiting like it was an Olympic bid or American Idol. That’s going to be more interesting than how to figure out the draft lottery. I’m sure any city will be great to hold it in, though with no fans and probably players not going out on the town– doesn’t really matter outside of the facilities that those cities will bolster for the players.

I’ve been on the fence between doing a 31-team tournament to shutting the whole thing down. As we sit here with a 24-team format, I’m more okay with it. Nothing to do about being a completionist, but if you believe the NHL in having enough tests and saying the test will be every day….why not get it done?? There’s going to be some people upset the NHL got those tests, but if they bought it through legit means– very little to be done; just ask Larry Hogan about buying tests for the betterment of his state. Sure, the next season will be super late on the calendar and lack on because of the 82-game format they’re hoping for– but if there’s a chance to play, why not take it out for a spin??

The Draft Lottery is more convoluted because there’s two phases which include the teams that don’t advance in the play-in round. How the NHL couldn’t have just gone with the seven teams that didn’t make it be in the lottery and then the rest fall as they may– much like the other seasons when it comes to the Draft….but that’s too easy. Gotta mix it up, gotta go outside the box.

There’s A LOT to be done still. Like I said, if at any point the NHLPA feels slighted, then they can nix this deal and the whole thing is dead in the water. I don’t think anyone would fault them for it like it were some kind of labor strife. This decision can either go really right and nothing bad happens and people panicked over nothing though they were justified in doing so at the time. It could also go very sideways, very quickly and the NHL and NHLPA look like fools for rushing back in just to do so.

If nothing else– it’s making for a wonderful story to be told in a future “30 For 30.”