Sunday, 29 August 2010

Dowbiggin Makes A Case

The Globe & Mail, one of Canada's daily national newspapers, has a number of excellent writers at its disposal. One of those writers is Mr. Bruce Dowbiggin. Today, Mr. Dowbiggin's column sounded surprisingly like an excerpt from the NHL Commissioner's various speeches about NHL participation at the Olympics. It is worth pointing out, though, that Mr. Dowbiggin is framing this article very well, and makes a case for why the NHL should be compensated in some way if they are releasing the players they have under contract to the Olympics.

Now don't get me wrong here: I love Olympic hockey. Besides the national pride on the line, there's always a good chance to see a surprising upset, a highlight-reel play, or a show-stopping save. Olympic hockey is fun, fast, and exciting, and the reason it is this way is due to the talents of the men on the ice.

And there's the rub: the NHL employs the best hockey players on the planet, and they get little to nothing in return except a few headaches.

As Mr. Dowbiggin writes,

"The Olympic TV impact is negligible in most of the American burgs where Bettman has hawked franchises, the elite players are exhausted by the travel and it punishes the NHL regional broadcasters who must go on hiatus at a time when hockey has the stage almost alone to itself in February.

"Plus, the NHL gets bupkis in return. As it stands now, the panjandrums of the International Olympic Committee and International Ice Hockey Federation are telling the league to butt out, they’ll be the ones to collect the cash. They’ll also tell you what uniforms teams can wear, how often you’ll play and probably how much luggage you’re entitled to bring.

"It’s a one-sided deal, one not reflecting the NHL’s leverage: the world’s best hockey players."
If you were the owner of an NHL team and you allowed your best players to head over to Sochi, Russia in 2014, what kind of return do you get besides a little national pride? And how does the IOC repay you if your superstar - say, Ovechkin or Crosby - ends up with a season-ending injury during his participation at the Olympics?

Mr. Dowbiggin even points out that the NFL may be pushing the Super Bowl into the Winter Olympics' normal window of time by expanding its season to an eighteen-game schedule. If you're a hockey fan, you want the NHL players there to give the Olympic hockey event some meaning, especially if they are competing against the largest annually televised sporting event. Otherwise, it should be business as usual for NHL teams, and the players watch the national teams from North American soil.

My feelings are that the teams should allow their players to represent their countries. Much like the transfer fees that the respective sport federations demand in Europe, the NHL should turn the tables on those federations and demand compensation for their stars.

After all, if the federations' arguments are that they trained and developed the players that the NHL teams are drafting, the same excuse can be used against them: NHL teams are training and developing those players into stars. If the Russian National Hockey Federation can demand payment from an NHL team, the same can be done by the NHL teams to the federations that demand that payment.

Isn't that fair for both sides?

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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