Silver Wordsmith: An author's journey
Without proper competition that NHL players bring, what is even the point of Men’s Ice Hockey at the Olympics?
While every other sport brings its best and brightest to the Games, Men’s Ice Hockey has to dig deeper than an NHL team looking to fill its front office with domestic abusers. Canada, for example, who should be dominant any other year, in 2022 sent a roster of players that were deemed too bad, too young, too old, and too ethnic for the NHL. The result? A swift defeat in the Quarterfinal, made palatable only by the United States accomplishing the same feat.
The only team that seems to benefit from this format is the one whose players comprise the majority of the players in the Kontinental Hockey League, the preferred destination for NHL players to escape the consequences of their actions, both criminal and otherwise. And even with a gold medal practically handed over on a silver platter, the Russians still have a difficult time closing. They almost managed to lose the 2018 final to Germany, a team that has not been relevant internationally since there were two of them, and then dropped a narrow 2:1 decision to Finland, a nation with 1/30th of the population that keeps giving them trouble in all things Winter related.
Historically though, the Russians dominate non-NHL Olympic Men’s Hockey. Under four previous banners, none of which actually include “Russian Federation”, they have won 9 gold and 2 silvers out of the last 13 NHL non-participation Olympics.
So whether the winners are the Soviet Union, the Unified Team, Olympic Athletes from Russia or the Russian Olympic Committee, for whom really is this spectacle intended? Papa Putin, the greatest sniper in Russian hockey history? One can only imagine him sitting at home with that devilish smile of his (one that likely got wiped off today), enjoying the unexpected fruits of setting up a league specifically designed to keep half of the country’s international squad from playing against the best in the world on a daily basis. After all, it’s gold medals, and not Stanley Cups, that keep getting one re-elected (actually, it’s polonium, but let’s not get too bogged down in details).
So, while we have been spared in 2022, before the next gold medal is awarded to something like “The Athletes Formerly Known as Russian Olympians” or “Soviet Union 2.0”, perhaps it’s time to abolish this one-sided charade. If you need another good reason, consider what will happen if the US ever wins again and everyone else has to listen about their newest Miracle for the next 50 years.
Another alternative is taking Gary Bettman’s suggestion and moving ice hockey to the Summer Games. That way the IOC can force another high-capacity venue on a city that does not need it and will never use it. Who wants to see an NHL-grade arena in Brisbane, Australia? I hear the Arizona Coyotes are still looking for a new home.
The more sensible alternative is to just watch Women’s Ice Hockey instead, where the best of the best actually show up to compete in a tournament worth watching.
Or if you’re particularly sick and twisted, you can tune into the World Cup of Hockey, the NHL All-Star Game of international hockey, or else watch the World Junior Championships, and then spend Monday cyberbullying a teenager that failed to give you a good reason to shotgun a beer and scream “Woo! Go Canada!”
Michael is a husband, father of two, lawyer, writer, and is currently working on his first novel, at a snail's pace. A very leisurely snail. All opinions are author's own.