The Last Time It Happened, An NHL Free Olympics
The last time it happened, things weren’t that bad. The NHL hasn’t always been at the Olympic Games, they’ve only been a part of the Olympic Games since we became a social media saturated, overbearing society. The way we act these days, it’s no wonder the NHL’s announcement of their intent to skip the 2018 Olympics in South Korea was received like a ton of bricks.
Before the internet took over our lives (I’m not complaining, since CKSN wouldn’t exist without the wonderful web), the Olympic Games was a place where the World’s best amateur athletes came to stake their claim at sporting glory.
It was before $100 million sponsorship deals, and 24-7 streaming access to athletes.
Some sports are still fighting the good fight to gain notoriety, and athletes are fighting to be able to both feed their families, and train.
In 1994 and 1992, the Winter Olympics were exciting. In fact, in the 1994 Olympics, Blenheim’s own Todd Warriner donned the Maple Leaf to represent Canada en route to an Olympic Silver Medal.
His team was a “talent deprived” bunch of mediocre players like Paul Kariya, Corey Hirsch, Petr Nedved, and Adrian Aucoin. They had to play other Olympic medallists in those games like Peter Forsberg and Saku Koivu, not to mention former NHL 100-point scorer Hakan Loob. And the three leading scorers of the tournament, all Slovaks, were named Ziggy Palffy, Miroslav Satan, and Peter Stastny. Terrible talent pool, just like we’ll have in 2018.
If we look at the Olympics prior in 1992, we had a few poor hockey players like Eric Lindros, Joe Juneau, and Sean Burke on Team Canada. Russia that year was a dominant force featuring a dozen future NHLers of note.
The major complaint seems to be people want to see a “best on best” situation. I get that, but then why are the World Junior Championships so huge in Canada. Why do fans flock to the NCAA Final Four, or the OHL playoffs? Those are not the best players in the world by a large account, but we love the exciting hockey, and no one in the Memorial Cup looks at the product on the ice and says that the kids can’t play. Best on best is all relevant. I’ve seen so many boring NHL games, and so many exciting Junior C games. The ultimate talent on the ice does not determine the heart, and excitement of a game, and let’s be clear, we’ll still be watching professional hockey players.
The 2018 Olympic Games in Korea will be spectacular, and the hockey will be intense, and widely watched. Probably more avidly so than the NHL’s mockery of a World Cup.
There will be current NHLers, ex-NHLers, professionals, amateurs, unknowns, new household names, and prospects spread across the tournament. And there will be more unpredictability in each and every game.
The last two times this happened, it wasn’t so bad. In fact, life before 1998 was pretty good in a lot of ways. Take a breather, hold off on Twitter, don’t share that ridiculous meme, and enjoy cheering for Canada, or Slovakia, or whoever you want to cheer for.
Maybe as sports fans, we’ll even have time to treat the women’s team as the highly skilled and exciting professional group they are, maybe we’ll learn the names of a bobsleigh driver, and a moguls skier, maybe we’ll realize that the players making $7,000,000 a year can more than easily take two weeks of unpaid vacation to play for their country, if they so choose. Right, Ovi?