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NHL Olympic participation is a point of controversy every four years.
The players have negotiated their continued place on Winter Games rosters. The League has lamented how the break in the NHL season isn’t beneficial, but generally supports a logical continuation of their relationship with the IOC.
The owners hate it.
Their arenas go dark, their players are put at risk and they see no tangible financial benefits to the League’s stars suiting up for their home nations.
Rarely has an NHL owner given voice to this sentiment as vehemently as Philadelphia Flyers owner Ed Snider did on Thursday night, blasting the League’s participation in the Olympics in a candid rant … while also taking aim at Team Canada for snubbing his star player Claude Giroux both on the initial roster and as an injury replacement.
Via the Flyers, let’er rip, Ed:
Q. Are you surprised that Claude didn’t get picked by Team Canada?
“Well it’s a farce. He’s one of the best players in the league. It’s ridiculous. He’s better than half the guys on that team.”
Q. Your team doesn’t have a lot of Olympic players on the top Olympic teams. Why do you think that is?
“There’s a lot of good players to pick from and I’m proud of the five guys that are on the Olympic teams. I mean, they may not be great teams, but they’re great players and they’re in the Olympics. We don’t pick them but anybody that thinks that Claude Giroux doesn’t belong on the Canadian team, they don’t know anything about hockey as far as I’m concerned. But it’s politics to a certain degree. He had to pick his own guy, and his own guy is good, but Claude is better.”
“If I had my way, we’d never go to the Olympics. We’re the only league that breaks up our season. Basketball plays in the winter, but they play Olympics in the summer. It’s ridiculous. The whole thing’s ridiculous.
Q. Is that only when it’s on the other side of the world, or any time?
I don’t care if it was in Philadelphia, I wouldn’t want to break up the league. I think it’s ridiculous to take three weeks off or however long it is in the middle of the season. It screws up everything.
Q. Would you like to see a return to the World Cup format?
I’d like to see anything other than the Olympics. I mean, I hate‘em.
Q. Do you think most of the league agrees with you at this point?
I don’t know. I haven’t taken a poll, but how can anybody be happy breaking up your season? No other league does it. Why should we?
Q. Originally you did it because you thought there’d be a benefit on the back end, but you haven’t seen that at all?
There’s no benefit to us whatsoever. If anything, I can only see negatives. The players want to play. The Players’ Association has a lot to say about it. As an owner, I think it’s ridiculous.
Q. Was this a point of contention [during the work stoppage]?
No. There was no point of contention. The players wanted to play and the league agreed. But as an owner, I personally don’t like it. It’s not good for our fans, it’s not good for our league, it changes the momentum… everything about it is wrong.
Q. You went to the Finals the last time there was a break…
Well, maybe I like it. I forgot about that.
A lot of this we’ve heard before, only with less volume, but Snider brought up something we haven’t considered before:
“It’s not good for our fans.”
There’s no question the Olympic break doesn’t add anything to Snider’s bottom line and it can be argued that breaking the League’s momentum for a month isn’t beneficial to the product.
But does it hurt the fans? The ones who get to watch their favorite stars in an all-star tournament for three weeks before getting to watch the greatest playoff tournament in pro sports a scant two months later?
I guess if you're a Flyers fan, you don't give a toss about the Olympics and can't stand the season break, it hurts you. I guess if you're someone that generally loathes the idea that your players are putting their health at risk for nothing that benefits the League, that's also a consideration. If you're a season ticket holder that can't stand that extra home game a week due to the condensed schedule, that makes some sense too.
But aren't fans, in general, happy with Olympic participation?