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The PJ Tatler

by
Bryan Preston

Bio

February 18, 2014 - 7:34 am
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On Saturday morning U.S. time, the U.S. Olympic hockey team faced off against the Russians on ice in Sochi. The match wasn’t quite the 1980 Miracle on Ice, but it wasn’t far off. Both sides left it all on the ice. The Americans and Russians battled to a thrilling 2-2 draw, kept a stalemate through the 5-minute overtime, and went to a dramatic shootout. The St. Louis Blues’ T.J. Oshie took most of the shots for the Americans, and scored the winning shot to end the game. USA 3-Russia 2. The victory set Team USA up to win their group, which they did, sending them straight to the quarterfinals. The Russians have had to win their final group game and an extra playoff match against Norway (which Russia won 4-0) to get to the knockout stage. For the remainder of the Sochi Olympics, and maybe for the rest of his life, Oshie will have a new nickname — T.J. Sochi.

Team USA took 25 players to the Sochi games, all of them National Hockey League players. Team Canada’s 25-man roster is plucked entirely from the NHL. Team Russia also hails mostly from the NHL — 16 of its 25-man roster ply their trade in the USA, with the rest coming from different professional leagues around the world. Pavel Datsyuk, arguably the best player in the Russian kit, is a forward for the Detroit Red Wings. Twenty-four of Sweden’s 25-man roster are NHL players, 16 of Finland’s player are NHL players, 17 of the Czech players, 14 of Slovakia’s, 8 of Switzerland’s…you get the idea. This year’s tournament wouldn’t be the same competition at all if NHL players were not representing their countries on the ice in Sochi.

Prior to 1998′s games in Nagano, Japan, the NHL did not participate and its players did not play in the Olympics. That’s part of what made Team USA’s 1980 gold medal victory in Lake Placid, NY, so special. The Americans fielded a team of amateurs to take on the pros from behind the Iron Curtain including the Soviet Union’s Big Red Machine, and America’s plucky amateurs shocked the world on home ice.

While the amateurs-versus-the-world storyline was romantic, the fact is, it did not showcase the best hockey players in the world. The NHL is the world’s top hockey league and its players sat the Olympics out until 1998. Since the Nagano games, Olympic hockey’s inclusion of professional players has turned its tournament into a kind of hockey World Cup, a competition that hockey has not held since 2004, but which never rose to the profile of either soccer’s World Cup or the Olympic competition.

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All Comments   (8)
All Comments   (8)
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The teams from the former Soviet Union and other communist countries like East Germany were pros in everything but name only. Sure a bunch of amateurs defeated the big red machine in 1980 but otherwise it was a foregone conclusion who would win. The rules were changed to recognize that fact.
23 weeks ago
23 weeks ago Link To Comment
Too bad most of the hockey so far, Russia vs USA aside, has been a tedious version of soccer on ice. About as entertaining as watching ice form. I look forward to dream matchup between Canada and the USA which would likely be played as hockey is supposed to be played. If Olympic hockey is to resemble soccer, I can do without 90% of it.
23 weeks ago
23 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'm not a big follower of the NHL, but I would think the other players would enjoy a 2 week break in the season every four years. Between pre-season, regular season, playoffs and finals, the NHL season is what, almost 9 months long?
23 weeks ago
23 weeks ago Link To Comment
Serving several decades in positions that require long-term strategic assessment, I get increasingly frustrated by short term thinking. If any other company were to try to increase its customer base, I can't imagine they would not see the immediate benefit of such an opportunity. Millions of people who have never watched hockey are not only introduced to the sport, but also are introduced to the NHL players. And the NHL can't decide if this is worth interrupting their season once every four years?

It seems the NHL may have the view that the owners or the players are their customers. Short sighted madness. If they worked for me, I would fire them.

23 weeks ago
23 weeks ago Link To Comment
Just wondering what happened to the rule they used to have about no pros in the Olympics? Now we have pro hockey and pro basketball players competing and who knows what else.
23 weeks ago
23 weeks ago Link To Comment
The "no-pro" rules was violated by the USSR and China for decades. Their hockey teams (indeed, most of their contestants) were supposedly in the military and thus amateur status, but everyone knew they did nothing but train for the Olympics.

Somewhere along the way, the Olympics decided that it was to be about being the best, amateur or professional. You want to see amateurs compete? Go to your local high school.
23 weeks ago
23 weeks ago Link To Comment
There was a hockey World Cup? The problem for the NHL is that it's #4 out of the four big sports here. And ESPN keeps shoving basketball down our throats. The Olympics at least showcase hockey in a way that it normally isn't showcased. Anyone heard of T.J. Oche before?
23 weeks ago
23 weeks ago Link To Comment
T.J. Oshie. Yes, I've heard of him. Good player. St. Louis Blues.
23 weeks ago
23 weeks ago Link To Comment
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