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The 4th Line Banger
Top Prospect

38 Posts

Posted - 09/24/2009 :  16:41:13  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
It appears that controversy in the 2014 Winter Olympic Games has started before the teams for the 2010 Games have even been announced. Alexander Ovechkin recently went on the record by saying (and I quote), ďNo one can tell me I canít play for my country,Ē and ďI donít care, itís my decision, and I want to represent my country at the Olympic Games,Ē referring to the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia. It went over reasonably quickly and no one said much. Ovechkin has become outspoken in the past 18 or so months so comments like this are expected. But wait, who else said the same thing?? Could it be Gino Malkin?? The guy can hardly speak English, but he can clearly say that he agrees with Ovechkin and it would be a dream to play in the Olympics in his home country. Going even further in saying that if the Russian team asked him to play, there would be no way he would refuse.

To put this into perspective, Russia (or the USSR for that matter) has never hosted the Winter Olympics even though much of the country is considered a cold climate. This is a world Superpower with a very large population and never a Winter Olympics. Consider that Canada will have hosted 2 Olympics and the US has hosted 4, North America has hosted 6 combined Winter Olympic Games in comparison to Russiaís zero. Japan, with all due respect has hosted twice! To say this event is massive for Russia and their National Pride is an understatement.

I know this is a little premature, but Mr. Bettman and the NHL have already stated that the break in the season to attend the winter games hinders the rest of the league and causes issue. However, this wasnít an issue with the Salt Lake City games and no one has complained of any potential issues in February in Vancouver either. But this apparently was an issue when the games were in Italy. So, Bettman and the NHL are kind of indirectly saying that they will support the NHL players in the Olympics as long as its North America cites.

Really, for any hockey playing kid in Canada there are two dreams. In no specific order, itís hoisting the Stanley Cup and hearing your Anthem played with the Gold around your neck. Thatís every game winning goal fantasy played out on outdoor rinks, frozen ponds, and driveways across Canada. Weíll, itís the same in Russia!!!! I would say even more so because it would be the Gold Medal at the first EVER Olympic games in your own country. For any Russian hockey fan there is no better image than Malkin to Ovechkin for the Gold Medal game winning goal with families in the stands and the entire country on the blade of their sticks. Thatís the Russian Version of Gretzky to Lemieux in 87. It would spur an entire nation of hockey player forward even further.

Shame on you Mr. Bettman, for even the chance of that not happening. For a guy who says growing the game globally is part of the NHL plan to even hint at the NHL players not competing in Sochi is a joke. Be a man and call the NHL part of the Olympics in 2014 today.

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PickupHockey Veteran

2308 Posts

Posted - 10/09/2009 :  14:49:16  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I dont disagree with the premise of NHL players playing in the Russian Olympics. I am sure the are required to carry insurance to cover them in the event of a major injury, which would impact there contract for the NHL.

The biggest reason I could see a league disagreeing with the prized players risking health would be the fact that around the corner is playoff season and to risk Sydney Crosby or Malkin both being injured when you are driving for the major revenue time for the Pittsburg Penquins and the league. And the fact that the NHL's paying customers, ie north American audience wont probably see a live game probably will effect the decision.

I remember not to long ago cursing the Olympic gods, because Hasek went down and may have cost my team the best chance they ever had at a stanley cup. I remember the Red Wings tanking in the post season because most experts believed their players were played out, most NHL team with players in the Olympics. The check on Gretzky in the world cup, and on and on.

Of course I get excited every Olympics for a possible Gold medal. I just understand the hesitation on behalf of the league.
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4809 Posts

Posted - 10/10/2009 :  06:06:32  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
The only reason coming from Bettman's own mouth, is money.

He has publicly stated that while the NHL can make further revenues and boost the image of its players and the game when an Olympics takes place in North America, it doesn't work out that way in Europe, and especially so in Asia. You can't make tv revenues and get good advertising when the games take place at 2 or 3 or 4am.

Surprise surprise, it's all about the money.

Which is why Bettman will be forced to allow the players to go to the Olympics in Russia now. Sound strange? Well, think of it this way: with the stand that Ovechkin has taken, and with the amount of clout he continues to gather, coupled with the star power of Malkin and Kovalchuk (haven't heard if Datsyuk has said anything yet), you better believe it's happening. Can you imagine the crapstorm of bad publicity if the NHL tries to prevent these Russian stars from going? The NHL is being pushed hard enough now by the KHL . . . but if the NHLers aren't officially allowed to attend, you better believe a revolt will be brewing.

For me, this is the actual crux of the situation - the potential to lose some very talented players from the NHL to the KHL if they are pushed hard enough. That means lost revenue, fan displeasure, lost revenues from everything surrounding those Russian stars . . . and the very large elephant in the room, which would be losing the best player in the league.

Ovechkin has shown he backs down from no one, on the ice and off. I think this is one showdown that Bettman will have to slowly walk away from . . .

"Take off, eh?" - Bob and Doug
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