While we continue to wait for the release of the National Hockey League schedule, it is time to discuss the reason for the delay: The NHL’s involvement in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Dan Rosen of NHL.com posted a story yesterday with NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly saying exactly what we’ve known for a while. There will be no NHL schedule until they work out the details for sending the players to Sochi.
But should the NHL send its players to Sochi?
Everybody expects that eventually (maybe as soon as Friday afternoon) the league will figure things out with the NHLPA and the IIHF and the schedule will be released.
There are many people who believe the pros shouldn’t be going to the Olympics. On top of interrupting the NHL season, it opens up the possibility for injury to dozens of players playing half a world away.
There is also an element of unfairness for teams loaded with Olympians. If your team doesn’t have any Olympians, you get a two-week break to recover from injuries and prepare for the stretch run. Teams loaded with Olympians get no such break.
Columbus would likely be looking at several of its players making the trip to Sochi. So they certainly would be affected by the decision to go to the Olympics.
Maybe it is because I’m one of a decreasing number of people that still love the Olympics, but I love the fact the NHL sends its best players for Olympic competition.
I am aware of the criticisms of doing so, and they are all very valid. But I do believe the NHL gets a substantial boost by having its players playing on an international stage.
Also, after all the negativity produced by the lockout last year, any chance for positive publicity for the league is a good thing.
There is one other reason that I think it is a good idea. If the league would decide not to go, it could put some players (especially Russians) in the difficult position of deciding between their NHL teams and their country. While the Stanley Cup is viewed as the ultimate hockey prize here in North America, in many parts of the world, the Olympic gold medal is the top prize.
You could potentially see players debating on going AWOL from their NHL teams to play in the Olympics. The NHL wants to avoid that disastrous situation if possible.
This is why the NHL will eventually relent and send its players.
But should they? You know how I feel. But what about you? It is time for you to vote. Let us know below and on twitter @unionandblue and @sextonhockey whether the NHL should stop its season for the Olympics.