The Olympics need the NHL
When the National Hockey League announced it wouldn't be participating in the 2018 Winter Olympic tournament, hockey fans were overcome with emotion.
The Olympic tournament is considered to be the premier event of the Olympics for many hockey fans as television ratings spike heavily for the on-ice action.
According to the NHL, many of the owners were opposed to players traveling to Pyeongchang to compete. The owners cited numerous factors in their decision.
Business metrics take a hit as the Olympics cause a 17 day layoff for the league. The layoff is known to reduce walk-up ticket sales in some markets and hurt the bottom line.
Injuries also posed a concern for owners as players compete in the Olympic tournament. During the 2014 games in Sochi, several key stars were injured during the tournament and missed a significant portion of the NHL schedule.
John Tavares (New York Islanders), Henrik Zetterberg (Detroit Red Wings) and Aleksander Barkov (Panthers) were some of the stars injured during the last Olympics and missed a significant amount of time.
Another contributing factor is the interesting relationship between the NHL and the International Olympic Committee.
This is where things get a bit tricky.
The NHL has supplied players for the tournament for the last five Olympics, but the league has no video rights to show case highlights from international games on the league website.
According to USA Today, The IOC was unwilling to pay for insurance and travel costs for the NHL players. The International Ice Hockey Federation said it would find the money.
Missing the Olympics hits NHL players hard as many of them look forward to representing their home countries on the grand stage.
"It is disappointing,” German coach Marco Sturm told USA Today. “Knowing that all the (NHL) players wanted to be here, this is unfortunate. This is an event where the best players should play.''
Russia's premier hockey league, the KHL, relished the opportunity to suspend league operations so its athletes may prepare for the Olympic games.
“They’re an elite team,” U.S. head coach Tony Granato said of the Russian athletes. “They might be as good as 20 of the 30 teams playing in the NHL right now. That’s how good they are.”
Given that the Russians have a team that boasts the likes of Pavel Datsyuk and Ilya Kovalchuk, it's no wonder why the team receives such high praise from Tony Granato.
The United States also possesses tremendous firepower on their roster but with the exclusion of the NHL, players like Patrick Kane and Auston Matthews are forced to sit out.
The U.S. threw an Olympic roster together from a pool of college kids, the American Hockey League (AHL) , and foreign leagues like that KHL. This didn't allow proper time for team chemistry to form and many of these athletes continued to learn about one another as the tournament progressed.
This lack of familiarity with one another led the United States to flame out in the quarterfinals with a 3-2 shootout loss to the Czech Republic. Tuesday's loss marked the first time the United States failed to reach the medal round since the 2008. Could things have been different with NHL players in the mix?
It's too late to answer that question but one should think the United States could have been more competitive, rather than taking a 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Russia.