The cost of the NHL at the Olympics makes some people upset because the NHL uses Sochi as a promotional platform of sorts but the NHL has to as they shut down their league for two weeks every four years for the Olympics. They should be able to grow their brand internationally. But should the NHL continue to go to the Olympics after 2014? The answer in my opinion is yes because it is about so much more than hockey.
The Quality of the Games
The games in Sochi have been excellent for the most part. The skill is there though some teams have resorted to trapping as a way to contain the overwhelming power of some of the strong teams (especially Canada), but in general all the games were competitive and the minnows all showed improvement. The Olympics also exposed the struggles of Czech goaltending and Slovakian development. But by in large the games were tight and the hockey fun.
Exposure to Other Athletes
Other Canadian athletes love competing alongside the NHLers partially because they are able to interact with them as fellow athletes. For example Jennifer Jones' second Jill Officer and third Kaitlyn Lawes seemed to love getting to play ping pong with Shea Weber and Sidney Crosby.
Jill Officer says playing mixed doubles ping pong with Kaitlyn Lawes, Shea Weber and Sidney Crosby was "pretty sweet." #bn— gary lawless (@garylawless) February 20, 2014
The NHLers have taken advantage of the perks of being Olympians by watching their fellow country men and generally being supportive teammates. Who wouldn't want to consider Luongo a teammate after he donned a awesome curling hat to cheer on a fellow Canadian. If the idea is that the NHLers overshadow the other Olympians in North America, it is not because they want to but because the media focuses on them more.
There are many athletes who talk about the pride they have when suiting up for their home country. Zdeno Chara was beyond words at being able to carry Slovakia's flag at the Opening Ceremonies (speaking of which, is there photographic evidence of Teemu carrying Finland's flag?). The athletes feel something when they get to represent their countries at the highest of levels. They are willing to do anything to win a medal. Canada had a fourth line of Duchene/Tavares/St-Louis/Nash/Sharp (Tavares was the centre until injury). These players are world class players on their own teams and dealt with being fourth liners/healthy scratches in a stride. For them, representing Canada was enough to do anything the team needed.
If Jeremy Jacobs can see that the players value the Olympics and their opinions need to be heard, than anyone should be able to. South Korea is not a slam dunk but the IOC and IIHF covered the insurance cost of the NHL players, something they do not do for the NBA. The NHLPA chartered flights for all the players and their guests which allowed them to have a shorter break because it cut down on travel time.
The Jets should return Evander Kane, Jim Slater, and Matt Halischuk are all on schedule to return, missing fewer games thanks to the two week break in the schedule. This is a real positive for Winnipeg, especially the return of Kane who has been injured often this year but is probably the Jets most talented player when healthy. The break afforded Kane more time to recover from his infection and allowed him to miss fewer games.
The Japanese Women's Team
One of the Japanese Womens Team Canadian Carla McLeod. They returned to the Olympics for the first time since 1998 when the Games were hosted in Japan. The team went to the Canada/USA semi-finals, cheering for the Canadians. They would not get to see a game like that if the NHL did not send their players. The looks on their faces say it all, this is a treat for them and I hope will help them grow as a team and smile.
There were at least 5 injuries sustained by NHLers at the Olympics (Aleksander Barkov, Mats Zuccarello, Paul Martin, John Tavares, Tomas Kopecky and to an extent Henrik Zetterberg). With the exception of Zetterberg, who has a history of back problems, these injuries could have happened anywhere. Tavares is already announced as done for the year, which led to an ill advised rant where he accused the IIHF and IOC of owing the Islanders money, even though the IOC is covering the insurance for the Islanders. Yes it is bad when players get hurt, for both the team and the fans but that is a known risk when participating in sport in general. Tavares will recover, as will all the other players who were injured hopefully and the New York Islanders will hopefully get a lottery pick that allows them some interesting options heading into the summer. Lets all hope that Snow's stance does not throw a massive curve in the future of the NHL in the Olympics.