The Sports Daily > The Pensblog
Why the NHL Should Go to the Olympics

     My mom was never a hockey fan. Then I got into hockey. Ever since she’s gotten a crash course in everything from off-sides to PDO and everything in between. Still, she’s not an aficionado unless the players in question are Penguins. With one notable exception.
T.J. Oshie.
My mom was up Saturday mornings in 2014 watching Olympic Ice Hockey with me. She watched as T.J. Oshie become T.J. Sochi. She still remembers him. She still says she doesn’t like playing against him because “he’s so good.” Whether or not you think T.J. Oshie is “so good” is immaterial. What this illustrates is that what the NHL gains from Olympic participation goes beyond simple dollars and cents.
Olympic participation opens doors and I don’t just mean in North America. It shows people from around the world a sport they may never have seen before. And not only that, it shows it to them at the highest level, best-on-best. The idea that the NHL shouldn’t go to the Olympics is to me, being someone whose earliest sports memories are of watching the Olympics on TV, completely asinine.
The majority of the population of the world lives in Asia. They’ll be watching the Pyeongchang Olympics (and the Beijing Olympics) in prime time. Children there will be picking up new sports to follow and play following the games. Going puts hockey into their lives. Being at the Olympics allows new people to fall in love with what is simply one of the best games out there.
The NHL doesn’t get money at the Olympics. They don’t get dollars for how their players perform and how many get medals. No, they just simply get to put their best players in front of millions of people who all have wallets and money to spend on everything from NHL.tv to jerseys.
Of course, though the biggest payoff doesn’t come directly for the NHL but for their players. And no I’m not talking about the ones you think.
First of all, there are three groups of players here. There are the stars from competitive nations. There is Erik Karlsson, Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin. The second is players who don’t go at all, guys like Carter Rowney who would likely spend the time on a beach someplace warm. The relative merits of these groups are obvious. But the real guys we need to talk about are the third group. Fringe country players who get selected. This is where we talk about Tom Kuhnhackl.
Tom Kuhnhackl is the son of German hockey royalty. He might be a role player on the Penguins who are laden with talent but he’s kind of important for team Germany. Kuhnhackl, not long after winning the Stanley Cup, actually scored the goal that secured Team Germany their promotion to play in the 2018 Olympics.
He didn’t grow up knowing his country would always be in the Olympics for ice hockey and in fact, they aren’t always. He, like Mark Streit, Mats Zuccarello and Anze Kopitar who hail from Switzerland, Norway, and Slovenia respectfully join their national teams and work. They claw their way to the Olympics. The Olympics means more to them than words can ever express. Just taking part and being at the opening or closing ceremonies is the thing of dreams. They might not even win a game, but they don’t care because they are there.
But of course, none of this makes millions for the billionaires so who cares. And I mean I get it. These players are paid by their NHL employers. They are making, in some cases, millions of dollars. But are an employer don’t you want happy employees? Doesn’t that ensure you attract the best people to your company and that once they’re there that they stay? And it’s not really costing them anything in actual money.
And the NHL going on about stopping the season? Really? The league who has missed two full seasons because of work stoppages in the last 25 years is mad about stopping their season? How cute! Okay, look if the NHL really wanted they could let the 40 or so players who are selected go and then replace them with young guns. The league is made up of many more than just NHL players. In fact, the majority of players don’t go. They could even do their two bye weeks in that timeslot giving each half of the league one week off and then playing young players another one week. It’s not like they have to shut down just because some guys go.
Ultimately there is so much that can be gained, even if we can’t measure it immediately in dollars, from going.

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