Team Canada’s hockey program swept the gold medals again during the Sochi Olympics this past week. The men’s program has won three of the last four Olympic gold medals (2002 Salt Lake City, 2010 Vancouver, and 2014 Sochi). The women’s program placed silver in the inaugural women’s hockey Olympics in the 1998 Nagano Olympics, but have won gold the four Olympics since then.
While they are clearly the dominant team in the world of hockey, their Olympic success may come to an end.
Will NHL players ever compete in the Olympics again?
There are rumors of the NHL wanting to end their participation in the Olympics. Key injuries are a key component to this reason. Paul Martin (Pittsburgh Penguins), John Tavares (New York Islanders), Henrik Zetterberg (Detroit Red Wings), and Mats Zuccarello (New York Rangers) are the recent key names that had injuries during the Olympics. These are huge concerns for their respective NHL teams which now could see their players sidelined as they enter towards the push for the playoffs.
Along with the NHL general managers, having their teams not play for a two week period offers them little revenue gains during the Olympics; something that general managers and owners mainly care about.
Some of the ideas brought up have been to limit the age of the Olympics to 23 for men’s hockey, or to continue with no age restriction but just exclude NHL players.
For kids growing up, they often dream more about getting an Olympic gold medal even more than hoisting the Stanley Cup. For fans, this is the arguably the best part of the Winter Olympics, as shown by Canadian provinces changing their liquor legislations to allow bars to serve alcohol as early as 5:00AM in order to watch the gold medal game.
If the NHL chooses to not send players to the next Olympics, this may be the fall on Team Canada and Team USA, yet the rise of European teams that have several players in the KHL. If there is an age limit placed on hockey players, it may become an insignificant tournament such as soccer which has a 23 years of age limit and can’t even hold a candle to the anticipation of the FIFA World Cup.
The end of women’s Olympic hockey?
Team USA and Team Canada continue to play in the Olympics at a level that no other nation can compete against them. This has critics wondering if women’s hockey should continue to be in the Olympics. Aside from the two games played against each other, which Canada won both by a score of 3-2, Canada outscored their opponents 11-1 and USA outscored their opponents 18-2. Not only does this prove to not challenge the two powerhouses, but it doesn’t seem like a fair situation for the other nations.
IIHF (International Ice Hockey Federation) president Rene Fasel has said “I can guarantee that will never happen,” according to the Associated Press.
Either way, the IIHF needs to address the issues that continue to demonstrate that the playing field isn’t even close to being even with no sign of decay by either team. Whether this results in the end of women’s hockey in the Olympics, or an age limit in the Olympics to eliminate the creation of ‘dynasties’ such as Canada’s with Hayley Wickenheiser, Caroline Ouellette, Meghan Agosta; there needs to be a change in order to continue the growth of women’s hockey worldwide.
Do you think we will see any significant changes in Olympic hockey before the PyeongChang Olympics in 2018?
Follow me on Twitter @JordanWalkerAKL