Since the Olympics are on and all, we’d be remiss to not talk about the NHL’s participation in future games.
As it stands, there’s no guarantee the best players in the world will participate in the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia. First, the league and the players’ union have to decide if it’s worth their time, then an agreement needs to be struck with the IIHF and IOC.
The NHL’s Russian stars desperately want the chance to play at home in 2014, and if we had to guess, they’ll probably get it. Beyond that, however, it’s less clear. (The 2018 Winter Olympics are in Pyeongchang, South Korea.)
NHL owners have argued that participation in the games puts their players at risk of injury and disrupts the season. Of course, in return, they get “a good promotion for hockey in North America,” according to IOC president Jacques Rogge.
But what about when the Olympics are outside of North America and games are starting late at night or early in the morning for Americans and Canadians?
“In some places, the benefits are greater for the Olympic participation than others. When you’re in Vancouver or Salt Lake City and you’re in North American time zones and you’re getting that type of coverage, then you are getting coverage that may be commensurate with shutting down,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in 2010.
“When you’re halfway around the world, maybe the coverage isn’t as great.”
The alternative could be the return of the World Cup of Hockey – a tournament that’s played during the summer, in North America, and with proceeds to the league and players.
A World Cup wouldn’t be the Olympics, but remember that some of hockey’s most memorable international moments came outside of the Olympics, from the 1972 Summit Series to the Canada Cups to the inaugural World Cup in 1996 won by the United States.
So, we’ll put it to you…