Even though the opening ceremonies for the Winter Games were Friday, the NHL played games throughout the weekend, only breaking today to allow its players to leave for Vancouver to chase down a gold medal for their respective nations. It’s the fourth time, beginning in 1998, the league has done so, its prime motivation being to capitalize on the Olympic fever and sell its players–if not its product–to new fans. With the league’s recent labor strife and its unstable television presence during that 12-year period, it’s difficult to guage whether or not the NHL has been successful. But one sports columnist out there has seen enough.
The 1980 USA “Miracle on Ice” team is memorable because they were dragon slayers. A bunch of college kids, most of them unwanted by the NHL, beat a team of Soviet pros.
That kind of storyline can’t happen in this Olympics. One team of NHL players will beat another team of NHL players. That isn’t good for the Olympics, and it really doesn’t do the NHL much good, either.–John Mehno/Beaver County Times.
Sure, the Games make for better press when the athletes are starving to death or maxing out all their credit cards for their one shot at Olympic gold, a la figure skating’s Mark Ladwig, but it’s not hockey’s fault that the sport actually has a functioning professional league (for now, anyway…zing?), one that cultivates and promotes talent better than other winter sports. I’d rather see USA Hockey do what soccer does: maintain a single, actual team and schedule exhibition games throughout the year. If being on Team USA was more of a responsibility and less of a vacation from one’s regular job, we’d certainly have more hockey players that we could gush over like we do in the other winter sports. And less property damage, too.