NHL Agrees to Send Players to Sochi Olympics ... As If

Published on 19-Jul-2013 by J Square Humboldt
NHL / NHL Daily Update

Sidney Crosby is off to the races ... and Olympic immortality.

The lowest-tension drama of pre-Winter Olympic build-up has been resolved.

Was the NHL ever going to ban its players from going to Sochi?

The league has done some dumb stuff -- think last year's lockout -- but it's not stupid.

  • TV ratings are on a roll,
  • USA broadcast partner NBC has paid well for the rights to the Sochi games,
  • The Russian players were going to be there, regardless,
  • The Vancouver Winter Olympics featured one of the most-watched gold-medal games ever, and
  • There is no way its All-Star game -- which would have been scheduled at the same time as the Olympics -- would compete for viewership with tournament games that actually meant something.

The Winter Olympics tournament finalized its pool-play alignment last February. Here are the results:

Group A  

Group B

  Group C
Russia (1)   Finland (2)   Czech Republic (3)
Slovakia (6)   Canada (5)   Sweden (4)
United States (7)   Norway (8)   Switzerland (9)
Slovenia (18)   Austria (15)   Latvia (11)

The NHL will begin its Olympic sabbatical on 9 Feb and resume games on 26 Feb. The Olympic tournament is scheduled from 12-23 Feb.

One of the more interesting sidebars to the NHL's negotiations with the Olympic poobahs was the intense desire of papa  bear Vladimir Putin to stage a two-week spectacular that would restore Mother Russia to the pinnacle of world sports. As in nations such as Canada and Sweden, hockey is a source of national pride there. Putin has made no secret in the past that he'd like to see the KHL be seen as level par with the NHL; there's no doubt he would have taken an absence of NHL cooperation personally.

As intruiging as such a power play would be, it's been avoided, as it always would be.

Fortunately, an authentic build-up to hockey drama -- on the ice -- can now begin.

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