Putting Hockey on Ice

Well, from yesterday until March the 10th, there’s no NHL hockey. The standings freeze, the players workout to avoid cooling off, and the NHL owners income drops faster than a thermometer in Canada winter.

And it couldn’t be better for the fans.

For hockey, that’s weird. Usually their fans are neglected the most in the big four, what with work stoppages aplenty and television deals that aren’t, well, encompassing.

But once every four years, hockey fans get what’s most comparable to two Christmases with a Gold medal game and Stanley Cup finals. An Olympics, which showcases pure hockey with their wider rink and fighting ban, brings all United States fans together, regardless of NHL affiliation, as one. It’s a great experience to root for one team, one flag, and one country. If this Olympics is anything like the 2010 Vancouver Games, it will be one of the most exciting events of the year and will further the rivalry between our sister-country in the Great White North.

Hockey players love it too; carrying the flag of their native country is a big deal and provides the opportunity for the athletes a chance to express their nationalism. Even those who aren’t playing in the games enjoy the break that a strenuous 82-game season puts on them. They rest up and, if you’re in the playoff chase, prepare for a push or if you’re the Calgary Flames, book vacations for late April.

Fans of Olympic hockey and the NHL better enjoy it while they still can. Grumplestiltskins like Ed Snider, owner of the Philadelphia Flyers, spoke plainly about the Olympics saying, “I mean, I hate ‘em.” Tell us how you really feel, Ed. He furthered his comments by calling them, “ridiculous” and damning the Olympics for “Screwing up everything.” (Maybe he’s upset his star Claude Giroux got passed over, AGAIN, for Team Canada, but you get the point.) Ed Snider isn’t the only owner disgruntled.

The sense around the league is that the owners will collectively apply pressure to league Commish Gary Bettman in order to ban NHL players participating in the South Korean winter Olympics four years from now. USA Today and Sports Illustrated have both expressed concern over the same sentiment as well as TSN analyst Darren Dreger. That would ensure a ho-hum normalcy of the NHL season, playing on as usual. It also means amateurs would play in the Olympics, decreasing the quality of the game broadcast. It would also force fans to pick sides, whether to watch a heated rivalry game or a possible Olympic medal match.

It’s a shame because NHL fans have had to endure so much, with the KHL poaching its talent, work stoppages, and a Commissioner who is annually booed so loud at the finals that it drowns out any other audio.

Since the NHL will put its Olympic talent on ice in four years, enjoy what’s on ice now – enjoy this Olympics as much as you can.

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