I hate them. It's ridiculous, the whole thing is ridiculous,” Snider said. “I don't care if it is in Philadelphia, I wouldn't want to break up the league. I think it's ridiculous to take three weeks off…in the middle of the season. How can anybody be happy breaking up the season? No other league does it, why should we? There's no benefit to us whatsoever. If anything, I can only see negatives.
Snider is certainly entitled to his opinion and he probably has the support of NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and many other owners. After all, the NBA gets to be part of the Summer Olympics despite the fact that it has played its games more or less at the same time of year as the NHL does.
But the bottom line remains that the NHL benefits from appearing in the Olympics every four years and the vast majority of the players seem to be very enthusiastic about representing their countries.
How important were the Olympics to some players? Well, Alex Ovechkin indicated he would have gone to represent Russia at Sochi even if the NHL decided not to interrupt the season, according to Joseph White of the Associated Press.
You could also see the passion and disappointment on the faces of those players who were not chosen to represent their countries including the Flyers' own Claude Giroux. Philadelphia's captain told Frank Seravalli of the Philadelphia Daily News, "It's tough today," Giroux admitted. "It's obviously disappointing. It was one of my dreams to be playing for Team Canada. I did the best I could and I didn't make it." The article described Giroux as almost "coming to tears."
Besides the players' overall desire to represent their country in the Olympics, the NHL has another reason to participate: the Olympics expose the game to new fans both in North America and around the world.
Most of the NHL's best players are introduced to millions of people who would not otherwise watch a hockey game. Yes, it's difficult to quantify and yes, requires shutting down the league for about 16 days, but this happens once every four years.
Olympic hockey also allows the most skilled players in the NHL to showcase their speed, stickhandling, passing and shooting.
One of Gary Bettman's desires has always been to "grow the game." To do so, he has expanded to non-traditional hockey markets like Tampa Bay, San Jose, Anaheim and Phoenix. He has also scheduled regular-season games throughout Europe including contests in Sweden, Finland, Austria and England.
Shutting down the NHL season for a couple of weeks every four years seems like a small price to pay to help reach potential new fans. Think of the tickets, jerseys, caps and T-shirts sold. Not to mention potential overseas television and radio packages.
It also keeps the players happy and gives them the chance to represent their countries on the biggest athletic stage in the world.
There may be a short-term inconvenience, but it is far outweighed by the long-term good brought on by Olympic participation.
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