How Long is the Olympic Hangover?

Sorry this piece isn't quite as timely as it could be: it was supposed to go in the Wall Street Journal but ultimately missed the cut...

 

In 1998, the NHL gave its players almost three full days off before restarting the schedule after the Olympic Games in Nagano, Japan.  This was dropped to two days after the 2002 Salt Lake City and 2006 Torino Olympics, respectively.  This year, US Olympians Brian Rafalski and Paul Stastny had barely 24 hours after the gold medal game to fly from Vancouver to Denver and line up opposite each other.  That’s a rare case that only applies to players who made it to the gold medal game.  The vast majority of NHL players get 3-7 days to recover before they have to play again.

 

NHL teams fear that allowing their players to play a handful of extra games in the Olympics will hurt them later in the season or the playoffs.  While it’s not clear that that happens, players do suffer when they’re not sufficiently rested.  In particular, it takes players at least three days to recover and get as much ice time as they got before the Olympic break:

 

# Players, 1998-2010

Days Rest

TOI

Avg TOI before Olympics

Percent Change

86

2

20.06

20.74

-3.3

109

3

20.40

20.59

-0.9

122

4

20.38

20.02

1.8

 

That’s not a huge difference overall – one less shift in their first game back.  But it doesn’t mean these players are effective yet.  Their teams suffered significantly after they returned:

 

Days Rest

Win %

Goal Diff per G

1-4

0.472

-0.14

5

0.527

+0.24

Before Olympic Break

0.527

+0.24

 

And it’s not because other players were on the ice: the average Olympic hockey player who played in a medal game had a significant drop in his +/- upon his return to the NHL.  Teams and players may not be hurt over the rest of the season, but they sure suffer in the first few days back.

SB Nation Featured Video
X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join Arctic Ice Hockey

You must be a member of Arctic Ice Hockey to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Arctic Ice Hockey. You should read them.

Join Arctic Ice Hockey

You must be a member of Arctic Ice Hockey to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Arctic Ice Hockey. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9355_tracker