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Olympic Hockey Injuries: Costly, But Worth It For NHL

Ben Ebert |
February 26, 2014 | 10:49 a.m. PST

Staff Writer

John Tavares celebrating with Canadian teammates before his injury (Facebook / NHL).
John Tavares celebrating with Canadian teammates before his injury (Facebook / NHL).
The NHL is back on schedule this week, as players have returned from the Sochi Olympic games to their respective team’s facilities. However, some players are not returning due to injuries suffered in Russia. This fact brings with it a lingering controversial question. Will NHL players compete in the 2018 South Korea Olympics?

Some NHL teams will be suffering huge blows to their rosters as they try to make runs for the playoffs in the remaining seven weeks of the regular season. The New York Islanders are viewed as the team taking the biggest hit from an Olympic injury, as they saw captain John Tavares suffer tears in his left knee, ending the rest of his season. Islanders General Manager Garth Snow had comments regarding his feelings towards NHL players competing in Olympic hockey, stating that it is a “joke” for teams to not be compensated for players injured in Olympic games. While many will argue that the Islanders are too far behind to make any legitimate run at the playoffs this season, sitting third-to-last in the Eastern Conference, Tavares’ injury not only secured that fact but could potentially affect franchise sales for the remaining portion of the season.

Other teams that will have to compensate for their injured Olympians include the New York Rangers (Mats Zuccarello), Detroit Red Wings (Henrik Zetterberg), Columbus Blue Jackets (Fedor Tyutin), Pittsburgh Penguins (Paul Martin) and the Florida Panthers (Tomas Kopecky, Aleksander Barkov). All of these clubs, with the exception of Florida, are in playoff races, with Detroit and Columbus currently battling for the 8th spot in the East.

Many owners and GMs also dislike the more-than-two-week-long Olympic break; there are proposals of either reinstating the Summer World Cup of Hockey or even moving the Men’s Ice Hockey Tournament to the Summer Olympics, allowing for no interference with the NHL season. However, it is unlikely to see ice hockey shifted to a Summer Olympic sport.

But doesn’t this only really matter to angry and upset NHL owners and GMs? Should an athlete that is playing for the most competitive league on the planet be denied the exhilarating experience to represent his country on the world’s biggest stage? Sure it is a risk that players can get injured during the Olympics, but so is having them play in the NHL. The fact that millions of viewers across the globe were exposed to ice hockey, its best players, as well as the incredible matchups that were displayed, serves to only benefit a game that seeks to grow in popularity.

The NHL has made great strides in catching up with the NBA, MLB and NFL giants that dominate the North American sports market. Denying star NHL players to compete in the Olympics would prevent emotional moments that the world sees, such as T.J. Oshie’s game-winning shootout goal over Russia or Canada’s 1-0 shutout win over the USA. It is these kinds of instances that overshadow the issue of player injuries during the Olympics and allow for the sport of ice hockey to continue to gain fans around the world.

ALSO SEE: Canada Wins Gold, Defeats Sweden In The Final

ALSO SEE: The Stadium Series: Why The NHL Is Losing Its East Coast Bias

Reach Staff Writer Ben Ebert here.



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