You in all probability know this by now, however when the puck drops subsequent week in Gangneung, South Korea, there will be no current NHL players on the ice. And whether or not it’s the NHL’s fault for being overly cautious and stingy or the Worldwide Olympic Committee’s fault for being cussed — to make certain, it’s a mixture of each — the actual fact stays the identical: Pyeongchang 2018 would be the first Winter Olympics since Lillehammer ’94 to not characteristic a males’s ice hockey event stocked with gamers from the world’s greatest hockey league.
The dearth of North American family names within the males’s event has lots of people questioning if the video games will even be price watching. Every game will be contested whereas People and Canadians are about to fall asleep, are already asleep or are simply waking from sleep. North People have been compelled to ask themselves some essential questions, comparable to: Is it actually price sacrificing sleep to look at a bunch of gamers you’ve by no means heard of battle it out for gold? And who’re these guys anyway?
This determination by the NHL, after all, makes Olympic hockey nearer to what it was for many years when the league didn’t launch its professionals. In 1980 in Lake Placid, the U.S. rallied behind a bunch of largely nameless youngsters from the ranks of faculty hockey, and it turned the nation’s biggest Olympic second. So perhaps it is a good factor?
A more in-depth have a look at the rosters in South Korea this month will put a damper on such optimism. Groups aren’t solely bringing a set of their brightest children from the beginner ranks. They’re bringing one thing else: gamers plucked from the NHL scrap heap.
You would possibly suppose that the exclusion of the NHL would deliver the typical age of Workforce USA down from earlier years, however the 2018 roster is older on common than these from Sochi in 2014 and Vancouver in 2010 — 29.four versus 27 and 26.6, respectively. In reality, that is the third-oldest Workforce USA roster up to now 38 years.
Many of these players have handed their prime, like Workforce USA stalwart Brian Gionta, who has greater than 1,000 profession NHL video games on his resume. Others are merely out of NHL work: James Wisniewski, who final performed important NHL minutes in 2014-15, was released by the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2016 after failing to impress on a tryout contract. He’s taking part in overseas now — within the second tier of the German league.
To be honest, a lot of the age disparity could be accounted for by the truth that these early rosters needed to be comprised of amateurs, which largely meant school gamers.29 And it’s not as if these youngsters had been stiffs — the 1988 team alone boasted gamers like Brian Leetch, Chris Terreri, Kevin Stevens, Craig Janney, Tony Granato and Mike Richter. The 2018 staff options some school gamers who’ve the potential to go on and have fruitful NHL careers — Harvard’s Ryan Donato, for instance — however the majority of the roster is made up of fellows who’ll by no means get one other sniff (or by no means acquired a sniff in any respect).
This development is worldwide: Every staff has not less than one skater with NHL expertise on its roster, and 6 groups (Canada, Czech Republic, Germany, Russia, Sweden and america) can rely not less than 1,000 mixed NHL video games performed of their ranks. In whole, the event boasts a mixed 17,419 NHL video games performed.
|Complete IN NHL|
|Olympic Athlete from Russia||2,565||1,955|
Workforce Canada leads the best way with 2,140 NHL factors and 5,444 NHL video games amongst their Olympians. These numbers could seem spectacular till you notice that the equal numbers from the Canadian staff in Sochi — the one with Sidney Crosby and Co. — had been eight,400 NHL factors and 12,936 NHL video games.30
The Olympic rosters are clearly missing star energy. The one exception is the roster for Team Russia — er, Workforce Olympic Athlete from Russia — which boasts two forwards who every performed greater than 800 NHL video games and scored greater than 800 profession NHL factors: Ilya Kovalchuk and Pavel Datsyuk.
Kovalchuk is a former Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy winner, and Datsyuk received three consecutive Frank J. Selke Trophies between 2008 and 2010 because the league’s greatest two-way ahead. Every Russian has some excellent hockey left in his legs. They’re additionally the rationale the Russians are the odds on favorites to win the event.
Workforce Russia can be bringing Kontinental Hockey League star Sergei Mozyakin alongside to South Korea. Apart from present NHL sniper Alexander Radulov, no different participant has received the KHL scoring title up to now decade. The KHL isn’t precisely the NHL, however it’s not precisely a beer league both: It’s the world’s second greatest hockey league, and 91 of the event’s 300 gamers at the moment play there. Russia’s video games alone needs to be motive sufficient to tune in subsequent week.
As for the remainder? Among the many non-KHL cadre, 203 gamers play throughout 17 skilled leagues unfold all through North America, Europe and Asia; 5 play NCAA Division 1 hockey; and one — Gionta — is at the moment not taking part in any aggressive hockey in any respect. Some groups rewarded gamers who select to play their skilled hockey on residence soil: Each Russian participant performs within the KHL, each South Korean participant performs in Asia League Ice Hockey, and each Swiss participant performs within the Nationwide League.31
However different groups appear to want a extra well-rounded bunch: The U.S. roster options gamers from seven skilled leagues and a handful of faculty studs.32 And the Slovenian roster options gamers from 11 leagues throughout Europe — from the Alps Hockey League to the Czech Extraliga (they know find out how to score pretty within the Czech Extraliga) to all three divisions German hockey.33
The NHL’s absence dictates that this received’t be the deepest or most proficient group of hockey males ever assembled at an Olympics, however these North People prepared to remain up late or get up early will get to see a number of gamers they’d by no means in any other case get to see.