The NHL and the 2014 Olympics? Maybe not? Then why play in Europe at all?

Hockey Canada just revealed that Steve Yzerman will be the Team Canada executive for the 2014 Winter Games to be held in Sochi, Russia. If you click over to the TSN page, you can listen to the commentaries about how it may or may not happen due to the First World Problems™ it would generate for the North American viewing audience and NHL.

Sure, I’d have to set my alarm at weird hours and be up in the middle of the night to watch some of the games. Every four years, I’m okay with that. It gives viewers who are far away a chance to participate in some Olympic-level feats of wakefulness and stories to tell around the water-cooler the next day

“Were you able to stay up until 4:00am to catch all of the game?”

“Did you see the overtime goal by Belarus? You mean you actually fell asleep?”

These conversations make up half of the Olympic experience. I was in Finland during the 1996 Summer Games and stayed up well into the night to see the 100m finals and the 4x100m relays. Those are the only events I remember seeing from the entire Olympic games. We watched them a lot while we were there, but it’s those epic moments that stick with you for years afterwards.

But back to 2014 – the Olympics are supposed to be about the spirit of sports and the goodwill of humanity. The NHL has a chance to say, “We love our sport above all other considerations. We’re happy to be a part of Sochi, and anything we can do to enhance the sport globally we are happy to do. We willingly join with our players and will stop our league for three weeks to come to the Olympics. It doesn’t matter where they are, we’ll be there!”

Instead, they’re saying, “We love our sport above all other considerations except the bottom line. We’re happy to be a part of skip Sochi, and anything we can do to enhance the sport globally in first world countries with lots of money we are happy to do. We willingly join will go kicking and screaming and use the Olympics as a bargaining chip during the next CBA with against our players and will won’t stop our league for three weeks to come to the Olympics. It doesn’t completely matters where they are, we’ll be there when they’re in North America where we can make a ton of money!”

I understand many of the implications of having an Olympic Games so far away. I do. However, I can’t quite wrap my head around they hypocrisy of not wanting to go to Sochi, yet insisting on starting the NHL regular season in Europe. Many European countries that they play in have superb leagues (Finland, Sweden) and others are catching up (Germany, Switzerland) without any benefit of the NHL’s physical presence in Europe.

Does the NHL want a bigger pie by including Europe as part of its empire? Are they worried about the (very real) threat of the KHL stealing away European talent?

I don’t know. To me, it’s silly that the NHL insists on sending four to six teams to Europe to play regular season games and then hums and haws over the biggest world stage sports has to offer. After all, which is going to grow the game more?

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