5 Reasons Why NHL Players Need to Play in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics
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The most glorious hockey moment of all time did not occur on NHL ice.
In 1980, the last player cut by the 1960 US Olympic hockey team got behind the bench and coached the US hockey team to a gold medal.
That victory, won by the team coached by Herb Brooks, is often considered among the biggest upsets in sports history. The key to that victory was a semifinal win over a powerful Soviet team that had toyed with NHL All-Stars.
The Olympic hockey tournament is no longer the province of amateur players. The best professional players participate, and the show is arguably the best international team sports competition this side of soccer's World Cup.
The NHL has not given its official "blessing" for players to participate in the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
It should do so without further delay. Why? Read on.
All sports fans watch the Olympics.
The Winter Olympics has the ability to draw huge audience numbers. With the games in the dead of winter, fans have fewer outdoor entertainment options and are more likely to stay inside and watch television than in the beautiful weather of spring and summer.
The Winter Olympics, held once every four years, is a break from the routine and the mundane.
The skiing, skating and sledding events may whet the fans' appetite, but the Olympic hockey competition is often dazzling.
Teams from Canada, the United States, Russia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Sweden and Finland have the ability to play spectacularly. Any game is likely to be a classic.
Hockey fans will always watch these games.
Non-hockey fans watch Olympic hockey as well. The 2010 gold medal game between Canada and the United States drew 27.6 million viewers, the most since the US won the 1980 gold medal (source: New York Times).
That's one of the ways to grow the sport. Expose the game to non-primary fans, and the NHL will almost always get some benefit.
Canadians would like to think their country plays the best hockey in the world—and so would Russians.
There is plenty of evidence to support both sides.
But the competition does not simply belong to those two talented nations. The United States often throws its hat into the ring along with Sweden, Finland and the Czech Republic.
The high level of international play creates one of the best tournaments in the world.
Olympic hockey raises the level of the game to new heights.
Olympic participation is vital to a number of NHL players, particularly Russian players who want the chance to compete in their homeland in the 2014 Olympics.
Players such as Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin would get a chance to show off their immense talents while competing on the international stage in their home country.
Ovechkin has said he will play for the Russian team whether the NHL approves or not. Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis told the Washington Post that Ovechkin could go to the Olympics without incident even if the league does not sanction it.
The NHL can help rebuild some of its broken relationships with players following the four-month lockout by letting players participate in the Olympic games.
The NHL ranks fourth of four when it comes to popularity among the major North American professional sports leagues (source: Harrisinteractive.com).
Critics deride hockey as a niche sport that only appeals to a few fans compared to football, baseball and basketball.
Olympic hockey gives the sport a chance to break through to the mainstream media.
During the 2010 Olympics, "Late Show" host David Letterman talked about Olympic hockey on his program.
Letterman and other talk show hosts rarely converse about the sport, but the Winter Games give the mainstream media a chance to embrace hockey.
Impact on Youth Hockey
The Olympics are a source of inspiration for athletes all over the world.
The 1980 US Olympic hockey triumph gave many youngsters a love of the sport and a desire to play that they had not felt previously.
When the best players in the world compete for Olympic glory, it reaches young sports fans and helps them with their dreams as well.
When Mike Eruzione fired home the goal that beat the Soviet juggernaut in 1980, the nation became inspired.
That same thing happened when Sidney Crosby won the gold medal for Canada with his overtime goal in 2010.
Allowing NHL players to compete would inspire youngsters, the future of the sport.