SBD/February 5, 2014/Olympics

Sochi Games May Be Last Olympics For NHL Players As Injury, Schedule Concerns Mount

Alfredsson said NHLers participating in the Olympics is good PR for hockey
There is a "growing belief" that the Sochi Games may be the last time the NHL will allow its players to participate in the Olympics, as the "size of the return on the NHL’s investment is debatable," according to John Niyo of the DETROIT NEWS. The league has "no control over the tournament or its players during the break, and while it helps build the NHL brand overseas it may be hurting the product here in North America." The players "love the Olympics, almost universally," but team owners "do not, in similar numbers." That leaves the NHL "caught somewhere in the middle." Red Wings RW Daniel Alfredsson said, "There’s talk that this one might be the last for NHL players, and I think that would be sad if it is. I think for the good of the game, the PR of the game, having the best players in the world together in a tournament like this." But Niyo noted there are reasons "no other major U.S. professional sport puts its season on hold like this." The NHL is "going away just as the NFL is clearing the stage," and while a U.S.-Russia game "certainly sounds like appointment television, the 7:30 a.m. ET puck drop Feb. 15 does not." That "disconnect will be even greater" in '18, when the host city is Pyeongchang, South Korea. One possible "solution on the horizon: Plans for a renewed World Cup every two or four years, beginning in 2015, that might satisfy the players’ -- and national federations’ -- desire to play internationally without interfering with the NHL schedule" (DETROIT NEWS, 2/4). SNY's Adam Schein said the Olympic hiatus is a "necessity, it has to happen, it promotes the game." But it is "bad" for teams on a roll. SNY's Sal Licata said the break is "bad for everybody." Licata: "I hate the fact that the sport of hockey has to take a two-week break to placate the Olympics, and I know they're doing it for promotion" ("Loud Mouths," SNY, 2/4).

LAST CALL FOR WOMEN? Canada F Hayley Wickenheiser said that she is “concerned about the future of women’s hockey at the Olympics" and the Sochi tournament will "have to demonstrate that the game has gone beyond a Canada-United States showdown.” The GLOBE & MAIL’s Paul Waldie noted the ’10 Vancouver Games “proved to be something of an embarrassment with Canada beating its opponents 46-2 and the U.S. crushing its opposition 40-2.” That prompted then-IOC President Jacques Rogge “to say that women’s hockey had to become more competitive or its status at the Olympics would be in jeopardy.” Wickenheiser singled out countries like Russia and Japan “as indications the level of competition is getting better.” However, she “acknowledged the Olympic event has become a two-nation contest.” Wickenheiser: "Federations have to show that they are investing in their women’s hockey program. But for me it’s a legitimate Olympic sport” (GLOBEANDMAIL.com, 2/5).
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