With the 2010 Vancouver Olympics in two weeks, the talk of the NHL participation has continued. As of now, this could be the final Olympics in which the NHL players will perform. The right to play in the 2014 Sochi Olympics has to be worked into the next Collective Bargaining Agreement. While players like Alexander Ovechkin, Ilya Kovalchuk and Evgeni Malkin have said that they will play in those Olympic games, whether the league allows them to or not, the NHL needs to send as many of its players as possible. Here are the reasons that the league needs to be a part of the Olympics:
1. Biggest Tournament In The World
When it comes to hockey, nothing is celebrated more than an Olympic gold medal. Kids dream of playing on the biggest stage, and when a country wins the gold, sometimes it gets celebrated on a postage stamp. Hockey during the Olympics is the largest sport in the Games and becomes the centerpiece. While skiing and snowboarding events garner attention, nothing gains more attention than Olympic hockey.
2. Free Global Advertising
This should be the main reason that the league decides to interrupt its season. For the last three years, the league has sent regular season games to England, Germany, Czech Republic and Finland, among other countries, to expand the league's global image. Sending players to the Olympics allows the league to get its main players out to the international community and gets their name in the minds of anyone watching. The Olympics are the biggest international stage for hockey, and being a part of it can only help the brand's image.
3. Player Happiness
Just as much as the NHL needs the Olympics, the Olympics needs NHL players. Sure, moments like the 1980 Miracle on Ice would probably never happen again. But, NHL players improves the level of play for Olympic hockey, making it more tolerable to watch when compared to a college or amateur league game.
4. Country Disadvantage
While certain countries already have a disadvantage when it comes to being able to compete -- Belarus has four NHL players while Norway has none -- not having NHL players would give countries like Russia and the Czech Republic an advantage by being able to pull from the KHL, which will most certainly shut down during the Games. While the NHL would not care about this, the IIHF would have to be discouraged to see a shortage of talent for their biggest tournament.
Obviously the NHL is a business and as commissioner Bettman has stated, it is difficult for his business to shut down for two weeks to accommodate the Olympic break. Even though it may be the case, the benefits of the Olympics have to outweigh the shutdown. Anything that gets the faces of your league on a stage that is seen by millions of people is never bad.