Olympics and the NHL; End Touch Icing; Shootout Stupidity
March 9, 2010 by Big Tony
1. NHL players in or out of the next Olympics?
There is no reason the NHL should not send players to the 2014 Olympics. The amount of attention the tournament gets worldwide is nothing but a positive thing for the NHL. Even for teams like Germany Latvia (among others) who were unlikely to win a medal at the games it gives them exposure and a gateway to getting more people interested in the game which results in better teams as the years go on. That is also true for countries that were unable to qualify for the Olympics this time around. The more countries that participate in hockey the better the talent pool, as a result the level of play in the NHL will continue to go up making a better product to market.
Secondly, the amount of people who watched the Gold Medal game in the United States was reportedly close to 30 million. The NHL (and NBC for that matter) is always looking for ways to better market the game in the U.S. and to gain greater viewership across the country. The Olympics (the Gold Medal game in particular) provided that to the NHL as everyone on the ice is currently playing for an NHL team. Not only that but it got people who ordinarily would not care about hockey to tune in; of that group of people—let’s say 5 million don’t care about hockey generally—if even 200,000 people (that’s only 4%) grew an interest in the game that makes it completely worth it for the NHL to participate in the Olympics. That is 200,000 more people to buy tickets and merchandise or possibly compete in hockey tournaments of their own and perhaps expose the game to other people.
Granted, the U.S. team will not always make it to the Gold Medal game, nor will that game consist of all NHL players and there is also the time zone issues when the games are not held in North America. There is also the issue of the NHL gaining no money from these games directly while also having to halt their season for two weeks, sacrifice its own all-star game, and subject NHL players to injury that could cause them to miss regular season time. But in the end the exposure they get is priceless and they do not have to invest a dime to get that. Players are not being paid for their participation in the Olympics –at least not by the NHL—so there is no salary issue for NHL owners. Not to mention the fact that it is only two-weeks once every four years for something that most agree ultimately helps the NHL much more than it hurts if it hurts the league at all. Some have suggested it’s just a bargaining tool by the NHL to use when negotiating the next CBA, no matter the case the NHL players should be in the Olympics so enough nonsense already and let them go.
2. Touch Icing:
For whatever reason there has been a debate for many years about whether to institute automatic icing in the NHL like they do in international and NCAA hockey. It should be a no brainer, END TOUCH ICING. I have given my piece on this before so I won’t say a whole lot. This past week on Coach’s Corner on CBC’s Hockey Night In Canada Don Cherry did a great segment on getting rid of touch icing, go to the following link to see the piece (http://www.cbc.ca/video/#/Sports/CBC%27s_Hockey_Night_in_Canada) , then click on Coach’s Corner (on the left side of the screen) then watch the March 6th video, it is one of the last things Cherry talks about toward the end of the video and I could not agree with him more.
3. Shootouts, why do home teams always choose to shoot first?:
I will never understand why the home team always decides to shoot first giving the road team the last chance to score. Some say it’s because they want to put pressure on the other team by scoring first. Quite frankly that logic is garbage and inherently flawed. Ask any athlete in any sport and when it comes down to it they want to have the ball in their hands/at their feet, or the puck on their stick with the game on the line witch a chance to win. Consider baseball, the oldest game in America for years and years has always given the home team a marked ADVANTAGE by giving them the last chance to score in the game (i.e. the bottom of the ninth). If any manager went up to the umpire before a game and said “I know we’re the home team but today I’d like to bat first instead and give them the final at-bat in the ninth. Yeah this way we can put pressure on them from the get-go.” he would be fired almost immediately. The only time I can see this logic being reasonable is if your goaltender is your best player, then of course you went to give your greatest asset in the best position possible to win the game for you but 99% of the time that is not the case. I do not profess to know more about hockey than coaches or professional players generally but in this case the decision to shoot first is asinine.