Tavares' Season-Ending Injury Latest Ammo For People Who Want NHL Out Of Olympics
Islanders C John Tavares is "done for the NHL season with a knee injury suffered in the Olympics," and Islanders GM Garth Snow is "not keeping his frustration to himself," according to Arthur Staple of NEWSDAY. Snow said, "Are the IIHF or IOC going to reimburse our season-ticket holders now? It's a joke. They want all the benefits from NHL players playing in the Olympics and don't want to pay when our best player gets hurt. This is probably the biggest reason why NHL players shouldn't be in the Olympics. ... It could have happened to anyone; it just happened to be us that lost our best player." Tavares lead the Islanders and ranks third in the NHL in points this season. Staple notes Snow prior to the Games "did express his displeasure when Kyle Okposo was left off the U.S. roster, but the GM most certainly was defending one of his top players rather than genuinely advocating for Okposo's inclusion." Snow on Thursday added that he "isn't upset with Tavares or any of the other NHL players who went to Sochi." He said, "I don't begrudge the players. I wore my country's jersey and I know how much every guy wants to represent his country. But NHL players just shouldn't be over there. There's too much at stake" (NEWSDAY, 2/21). In Boston, Eric Wilbur wrote under the header, "Tavares Could Be The Poster Boy For The NHL's Decision To Pull Out Of The Olympics." Tavares' injury "could have serious ramifications on what the league decides" for the '18 Pyeongchang Games. Wilbur: "You can bet Islanders owner Charles Wang will have some negative comments to go in line with what Flyers owner Ed Snider had to say earlier this month" (BOSTON.com, 2/20).
INJURY REPORT: ESPN N.Y.'s Katie Strang noted Tavares is "the latest player from the league to get injured in Russia." The Panthers "sent just two players to Sochi, and both got banged up" -- C Aleksander Barkov is "expected to be out for about a month with a knee injury he got while playing for Finland," while LW Tomas Kopecky is "out indefinitely after getting elbowed in the head in a game for Slovakia." Rangers RW Mats Zuccarello had a "hand injury that ruled him out of Norway's finale against Russia," and Red Wings LW Henrik Zetterberg while playing for Sweden "aggravated a preexisting back injury ... after his Sochi Games opener and is out indefinitely" (ESPNNY.com, 2/20). In N.Y., Botte & Lorenzo note Rangers coach Alain Vigneault "was a bit more diplomatic" than Snow when speaking Thursday about Zuccarello's injury. Vigneault said, "Every four years players get an opportunity to represent their country. It’s something that some people never get the opportunity to do. Those are the risks that come with the game." He added, "It’s unfortunate, but it happened to Mats and hopefully it won’t be that long, and those are the risks that come with the game" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/21). Red Wings GM Ken Holland said that he still "wants the Olympics and the NHL together." But SPORTING NEWS' Ben Valentine wondered, "Will his tune change if Detroit ... misses the playoffs as a result of Zetterberg missing time? Unlike Snow's Islanders, Red Wings fans have plenty to be upset about" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 2/20).
BETTMAN NOT TIPPING HIS HAND: NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman sat down with NBC's Al Michaels live in-studio Thursday and acknowledged the Olympic hockey tournament has been “terrific," but reiterated he was uncertain of future league participation in the event. He said, “It's a real balancing act. Coming to the Olympics is a lot of fun when you're here and the hockey is fun. … But it requires us to shut the season down in the middle. It's a break in momentum.” He added, “Everything I've heard about the day-to-day existence of being here is the facilities have been terrific" (NBCSN, 2/20). Rangers C Brad Richards said he believes there is "probably a better chance they don’t want to send" players to the '18 Pyeongchang Games. Richards: "I don’t know if that will happen. The union wants to send players. I’ve played in it, it’s a dream come true to be an Olympian. Shutting down your sport is a tough thing to do." Richards said that when the union met to discuss the Sochi Games, players across the board "were in favor of participating, even those who weren’t likely to compete in Russia" (N.Y. POST, 2/21).
HOCKEY ENTHUSIASTS: In Buffalo, Bucky Gleason notes he has had a "long-standing opinion that the NHL shouldn't participate in the Olympics when the Winter Games are held overseas," but he admits he "was wrong." He writes the Sochi tournament "has been fabulous." Gleason: "For a few days, I was holding steady with the idea that the United States' win over Russia was a mirage, just one game that ended in dramatic fashion with a shootout capturing our attention. But the entertainment continued" (BUFFALO NEWS, 2/21). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Jason Gay writes it is "hard to witness the exuberance around Olympic hockey and not feel like something significant would be lost" if the NHL did not participate (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 2/21). In Detroit, Drew Sharp wrote it is "short-sighted thinking, but the owners don’t understand how valuable these two weeks are to the league -- especially as it pertains to further growing a fan base in the United States." NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman is "crazy if he thinks orchestrating a NHL World Cup-like competition for two weeks in the middle of the 2018 regular season would garner the same passion as participating in the Olympics" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 2/20). In Phoenix, Sarah McLellan writes the "cons make sense," as the NHL "interrupts its season at a time when it's competing for viewership with only one professional league, the NBA -- and sends its players sometimes multiple time zones away, where they risk injury." But the reasons "to play are just as noteworthy." The free publicity "can't be overstated," the Olympics provide "a level of exposure the NHL craves, and the players are the best selling point" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 2/21).
NOT GETTING THE JOB DONE: In Pittsburgh, Bob Smizik wrote under the header, "NHL Should Pass On Future Olympics." There is "little to be gained and much to be lost with such involvement." Even if the Olympic hockey tournament was "injury free, NHL participation is just a bad idea." The idea that the Olympics "help sell the sport of hockey, which is the primary reason for the NHL's involvement, is not necessarily true." There is "scant indication this surge of interest carries over." People watching the U.S. play Russia or Canada "are not likely to tune in San Jose and Phoenix on some Tuesday night in November unless they were previously inclined to do so" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 2/20).