With the NHL schedule release for the 2013-2014 being delayed only because of the decision regarding the Olympics, let’s take a minute to discuss why the NHL should let their players go to Sochi, Russia this winter to participate in the 2014 Winter Olympics.
The first and most important reason the NHL should let its players go to Russia is to grow the sport. The gold medal game between USA and Canada in 2010 was the most watched hockey game in 30 years with 27.6 million viewers. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman should only need that stat to convince him not to ban the players from the competition. After shepherding the NHL through yet another lockout with world-class stupidity, American hockey needs another jolt. An original 6 finals between Boston and Chicago this past season was a great start, but league play doesn’t grow the fan-base like the Olympics does.
Gary Bettman, the worst commissioner in the history of American sports, is unanimously hated by everyone. This is why he needs to get this decision right. I understand he works for the owners, and the owners don’t want the health of their players being risked without being compensated for it, but they need to have the future of the game in mind. Bettman has tried his hardest to throw dirt on the NHL for the past couple decades, and he needs to understand the ramifications of banning his league’s players from the Olympics. The players will be furious, the quality of Olympic competition will be mortally wounded (for the casual fan,) and fans will see “Bettman” and “controversy,” and immediately start trashing him and the NHL again. Obviously, this is the last thing the league needs. Coming off another lockout, hockey needs more marketing and availability, not less.
A couple of months ago, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said he was working under the assumption that the NHL will let its players travel to Sochi this winter. It seems like too easy of a decision to get right, and that’s what scares me. It seemed to easy for the NHL to do anything to avoid a lockout this previous season, and we all know how that turned out. Bettman seemingly thrives on falling on his face, so I’m not sure I can trust him to do the right thing with the league until he does it. Hopefully, NHL players will be taking part in the Winter Olympics for the fifth straight time.