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Photo Credit: Kevin Sousa / USA TODAY Sports

NHL out of the Olympics – what does it mean for the Flames?

In a move that was not that surprising, but still a bit painful, the NHL has announced that they are out of the 2018 Pyongyang Olympics. The players (with the potential exception of Alexander Ovechkin – and Marc-Edouard Vlasic? – which will be an interesting development) will not represent their countries in the winter festivities.

With the league digging the corpse of the World Cup of Hockey up, it was pretty much a foregone conclusion. I don’t know how folks are feeling (I’m pretty ambivalent about it), but it’s a loss for hockey regardless of how invested you were in it.

But it’s not just about the fans. The biggest losers are the players. For reasons we can certainly understand but not truly get, the Olympics are a major point of pride for the players. Ovi will literally leave his incredibly well-paying job to go play for his home country, and there’s probably many others who are considering the same. Playing for country is a driving force that goes beyond club and cash.

I’d guess it’s because the window for playing in the Olympics is very narrow. Let’s say a good NHLer’s career lasts 12 years. The Olympics are every four years, so (assuming) the first year of a player’s career is the Olympics, they’ll usually get four chances. The first go around, they’ll be too young (remember when Team Canada picked 35-year-old Kris Draper over Sidney Crosby?). The second, they might just make it, but likely not. The third is usually go time. Fourth, they’ll probably be too old (then again, 35-year-old Kris Draper).

So the Olympics are something special. It’s being skilled enough to make it and lucky enough to be good at the right time. It’s being selected as one of 23 from the millions for your country. And there are many Flames who will likely miss that all-important “make it” window.

Let’s start with captain Mark Giordano. He’s a late bloomer, so he didn’t get a chance at the 2006 or 2010 Olympics. When he finally reached that elite level, he missed out on the 2014 Olympics due to injury. At his age, 2018 was probably his last chance.

Mikael Backlund is also in a similar situation. Having finally reached the top team for Tre Kronor, Backlund will miss out on what could be his only chance. He’ll be a month from 29 when the 2018 Olympics roll around, and 33 when the 2022 ones come by. Backlund’s in his prime right now, so 2018 seems like his go year.

There’s also young guns who are probably going to miss opportunities to shine. Sean Monahan, who hasn’t represented his country since the 2014 World Championship, will miss a big opportunity. Ditto for Johnny Gaudreau. Dougie Hamilton hasn’t represented his country since the 2013 World Championship. Matthew Tkachuk is a budding star for USA hockey, and could’ve even had a darkhorse shot at 2018.

For these young guns, we should also remember that it’s likely that this isn’t an isolated thing. The NHL will likely be out of the 2022 Olympics, the 2026 Olympics, who knows. It’s going to be a silly pissing contest leading up to the next time the CBA needs discussing. Who knows how long the league and the owners hold out, because they’re going to fight against the Olympics at every turn.

Of course, the players could always join Ovechkin in his mini-strike against the NHL. That would be a “fun” thing to happen. Let’s hope cooler heads prevail.

    • nikkomsgb

      The IOC are clowns and they extort whomever they get to host their games. It isn’t a surprise at all that they tried to get the NHL to send their players at their own risk and with no benefit. It’s actually a shame that more people aren’t upset about the IOC getting the IIHF to pay for the travel and insurance…since this money comes from the associations that are supposed to support minor hockey and the true growth of the game.

      I think Calgary should drive a hard bargain. The only reason Beijing is getting the 2022 games is because no one wants them. The IOC wants them here, and we could use a refurbishment of our 88′ venues, but if they want to take all the profits and run, then I say we should tell them to pound sand. We should be in the power position, not the IOC.

  • Fan the Flames

    The players love the Olympics we know the owners hate shutting down the league and the risk of losing a star player to injury . I would also like to see the Allstar weekend cancelled and no bye weeks so the compressed schedules with games on back to back nights would not be necessary.

  • beloch

    I don’t see why anyone is actually taking the NHL’s press release at face value. They’re just playing hardball with the IOC. Either the IOC will make some concessions, such as putting the NHL’s logo up as a sponsor during Olympic hockey broadcasts (a reasonable request), or they’ll double down and ban NHL players from the Olympics permanently.

    The 2018 Olympics may well not happen, but there is yet hope. The two sides may yet negotiate an agreement, or the players themselves may simply decide they’re going even if the league says no. I have no idea how that would work, but it’s not impossible.

  • Burning Ring of Fire

    If true, it sucks because watching Olympic hockey is great, but it’s good for the Flames because they don’t have to worry about potential injuries and tired players coming home from playing overseas. A happy/sad news story.

  • canadian1967

    Don’t think of it as a fan, think of it as a businessman.
    Think about the fact that the NHL supplies all the players, takes all the injury risks and shuts down in the middle of the season and can’t even use Olympic footage of it’s own players afterwards.
    What business in it’s right mind would do that for no return?
    The problem is with the IOC and we all know how corrupt they are.

    • King Quong

      As a business what will you do if one of your top Products/Employees(ovechkin) directly defies your ruling and goes to the olympics anyways? Suspend him and have him leave and goto your competitor (khl) or lose face and do nothing. I agree that as a business there’s a lot of risk involved but I don’t think this was the right idea some bad publicity coming the nhls way soon.

      • canadian1967

        The KHL is not and never will be the NHL’s competitor. The NHL has no competitor.
        If anyone leaves the NHL to play in the Olympics they will be suspended and unable to play in the Olympics, or any other competition as per their contracts, unless of course it states in Ovi’s contract that he may play in them 😉

        • Avalain

          No, if they leave they can be suspended without pay from their teams for as long as the owners deem necessary. They can probably even cut up their contract and make them suddenly a free agent. But they can’t stop them from competing in the Olympics without some sort of deal with the inconvenience (which they obviously do not have).

          • Greatsave

            Considering the calibre of stars who would *actually* go to the Olympics, if petty owners want to cut Karlsson, Ovechkin, McDavid, or Patrick Kane loose (hypothetically), I say let them.

        • King Quong

          Ultimately the NHL is an entertainment business, so it has lots of competitors from movies to other sports. If I decide to spend my time and money on something else rather than the NHL that would make whatever I chose a competitor of the NHL, that being said. Ovechkin is in the conversation of being the best goal scorer of all time and I guarantee you losing him to the khl would impact sales for merchandise and game attendance in Washington as well as else where. I know I’ve went to a flames game to watch him in the past.

  • King Quong

    Big mistake for the NHL as players like Ovechkin will go and directly oppose Bettman’s ruling and there’s nothing the NHL can do about it what are they going to do suspend him? And if ovie goes and doesn’t get punished I bet you other players will try too. I think they should’ve agreed to something where each teams individual owner could give permission to there guys or not I think it would have saved the NHL some embarrassing moments in the future when ovie goes.

    • 24% body fat

      Sam Bennett
      2015-16 Calgary Flames NHL 77 18 18 36 37 -11 — — — — —
      2016-17 Calgary Flames NHL 78 12 13 25 75 -14

      Yakupov
      2012-13 Edmonton Oilers NHL 48 17 14 31 24 -4 — — — — —
      2013-14 Edmonton Oilers NHL 63 11 13 24 36 -33 — — — — —
      2014-15 Edmonton Oilers NHL 81 14 19 33 18 -35

      Pretty close. Nice Pick HAHAHA

      • Danoilerfanincalgary

        The right point comparison should be Bennett and Draisatl were they not drafted same year? 3rd and 4th overall. Yakupov was drafted the same year as Jankowski the kid Feaster claimed to be the best player in the draft. I honestly think he will still emerge as a player for the Flames though.

        • 24% body fat

          ya, but the point is walter always defends bennett and now he is making fun of yakupov who has alway had superior offensive numbers to bennett, as well as to relative age. Yak may be out of the nhl next year but at least he had accomplished something, even if it was only in his rookie year.

          • dontcryWOLF88

            Draisatl may as well be a pylon playing with McDavid.

            In any event, its important to remember that Bennett was our highest draft piuck of all time. As a credit to the Oilers unrivaled dedication in sucking the past decade, they beat the Flames even in that year for a higher pick.

            ..so yeah, id say the Flames are doing pretty darn well considering we didnt anywhere near the same draft advantages.

    • Burning Ring of Fire

      Based on the responses your comment elicited, it appears that more CoilEr fans visit our site than Flames fans. Their site must suck more than ours.

      • dontcryWOLF88

        I dont think the articles are nearly as well written. Its very joke-focused, which isnt really my thing. I prefer the more professional style used on FlamesNation.

        Comment sections are pretty equal in quality at most times, I think.

  • McRib

    Not the end of the world, if the players want to make millions then that is something that has to be considered.

    I would like to see a U23 talent field like Soccer in the Summer Olympics (they also allow three over 23 players per team).

  • Marcellus Wallace

    It would help if the writer knew the difference between Pyongyang and PyeongChang. I wouldn’t want to play in North Korea either but maybe their bff Dennis Rodman can tag along

  • Greatsave

    “I’d guess it’s because the window for playing in the Olympics is very narrow.”
    What about the amateur players who are denied the opportunity to represent their countries at a sporting event *for amateur sports* because the pros want in?

  • dontcryWOLF88

    Im surprised this doesnt bother people more. I find it infuriating.

    Doubt I could hold myself to it, but I feel compelled to boycott the league for this petty crap next year.

    And I dont want to hear any of that crap about how the NHL gets nothing for their risk. Yeah, true, but so what?! Thats the &*ucking point. Its about nationalism and pride, not money.

    It makes no sense to me that the richest people in our societies get every break in the world for being cheap. They get more breaks on ethics and morals and principals then most middle class folks are afforded. And then, the middle class defends that system for some reason that absolutely baffles my mind.

    • Greatsave

      Frankly, don’t see what there is to be outraged about. There is no moral issue here.

      What “breaks” are the “richest people” getting? What are they (I presume NHL owners in this case) getting away with? Not allowing slightly-less-rich athletes employees participate in a sporting event? Denying fans the chance of seeing the most talented hockey players play against each other in different teams than they would otherwise play against each other in?

      There is no moral issue. Please, don’t cry wolf.

      • dontcryWOLF88

        Haha. Funny ending.

        I disagree though. I do consider it a moral issue. It’s cheap and selfish.

        The Olympics is for the fans and the players. However, the owners have made it about them. You may not see it that way, but I do.

        To be clear though, I certainly do not expect the elite class to do anything that doesn’t make them money. There is very infrequent signs of virtue from that level. It’s just disappointing to me that greed always wins over everything else.

        • Greatsave

          If that’s how you feel, then the IOC ought to be held to the same level of contempt. I think saying “The Olympics is for the fans and the players” is an overly-rosy view of how the Olympics works. Let’s not pretend the Olympics would continue if it weren’t a money-printing machine, or that the IOC isn’t corrupt.