Ramble On Sports

Where sports, pop culture and everything else collide.

NHL freezing out 2014 Olympics?

Posted by Bill Koch on February 28, 2010

Sochi Olympics

Gary Bettman can’t be this stupid.

That’s what I’m trying to tell myself right now. Here we stand just hours away from a hockey game pitting the United States and Canada against each other in Vancouver, a gold medal on the line, and Bettman is already throwing cold water over the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia, by refusing to confirm that NHL players will be available to represent their respective countries.

In a long line of monumental mistakes, Bettman, the NHL commissioner, is about to make the worst one of his career. NHL fans already loathe him for the beating that the league has taken on his watch, but this would be a new low. He’s already watered down the competition due to overexpansion, brought hockey to markets where it doesn’t belong, hijacked teams from Canada in favor of places like Denver and Phoenix, damned the league’s television rights from ESPN to little-viewed Versus and presided over two crushing lockouts that have brought both the players and owners to their knees and left the fans holding the bag. Now Bettman is set to take away the absolute pleasure that comes every four years when the best players on the planet represent their countries on what amount to All-Star teams that would wipe up the ice with any NHL club.

Any grumbling about shutting down the NHL for two weeks to conduct the Olympic tournament should stop right now. Bettman and the owners could be one of the most shortsighted groups of men on the planet, but not even they could be foolish enough to risk the untold damage they would do to their brand if they take this step. Stars like Alexander Ovechkin have already said publicly that they would flip a collective middle finger to the NHL and play in the Olympics, but that’s just the start of the public relations nightmare that the league would face for ruining the best that hockey has to offer. What’s to stop players like Ovechkin from leaving the league entirely or never coming in the first place? Russia’s new KHL, a league financed by oil and mining billionaires, is already trying to lure NHL talent to their teams with the promise of more cash than players can find in North America thanks to shrinking markets and economic troubles. If Bettman isn’t able to overcome his record of bonehead decisions and adds another to the list, it might not take until 2014 for him to have to travel to Russia to see the world’s best hockey.

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2 Responses to “NHL freezing out 2014 Olympics?”

  1. tk said

    Well said. I agree.

  2. Steve G. said

    Totally agree. The only way I can see his comments as being sane is if the player’s association is the one who has final say in the matter. And, I can’t imagine that they do, since to have a two-week layoff from the NHL season, the owners and players must have to agree to do so. The Olympics have been great for hockey, and I bet it’ll have a nice ripple effect on the NHL’s bottom line, especially for teams with American and Canadian players (pretty much all of them) who won medals.

    What the eff does Bettman have to do to get fired? I realize that he is the Bud Selig of the NHL, and basically works at the behest of the owners to do their dirty work, but still. He is miserable at his job. Almost anyone would be better… And he makes like $6 million a year! What gives??? The only guy close to being as bad as he was was Gene Upshaw, but at least he had the excuse of being a former player and not exactly being the most qualified candidate to lead a player’s union.

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