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The Hockey Prof Complains (Updated Twice)

Today I got pointed to this article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette written by a Bob Smizik: NHL doesn't belong in the Olympics

Card-carrying members of what one commenter the other day called ``the hockey Taliban,’’ made a brief appearance on this blog this week.

``Taliban’’ might seem a bit strong, but the reader described them this way:

``If you’re not completely committed to hockey, you’re the enemy.’’

I know the type. If you write something even mildly negative about hockey they come out of the woodwork to denounce you with this standard response:

``You don’t know anything about hockey.’’

In their minds:

* Fighting is good for the sport.

* The regular season is fraught with meaning.

* Shootouts are the perfect way to determine the winner of a game.

* Hockey is growing in popularity by leaps and bounds.

Yeah, yeah, yeah....we are uncouth sonsofbitches.  We know already, so get on with your point.


Normally, I try not to get into an argument with these types. But they made one point on this site that I can’t let stand. It regards their stance on the NHL participation in the Winter Olympics.

One person wrote: ``The NHL players want to play for their country in the Olympics. They deserve credit for that, and the NHL deserves credit for giving them that chance and not making the individual pro teams suffer during that stretch.’’

Trust me on this: The NHL participates in the Olympics because it is desperate for attention. Patriotism has nothing to do with it.

It is, in fact, a real swipe at the league that it shuts down for the Olympics. In effect, it is saying the Olympics are more important than the NHL.

No other sport would do that. If basketball were moved to the Winter Olympics, the NBA would not participate. When baseball was part of the Summer Olympics, MLB did not participate. If Olympics tennis ever went up against one of the four major tournaments, none of the top players would participate.


I find this argument to be nonsense for a number of reason.  Now, because I found it so unconvincing (and I'm trying everything possible to avoid doing real work), I took time to write a note to Mr. Smizik:

Mr. Smizik,

Sorry you have gotten an earful from hockey hotheads - we can be an intemperate bunch.

You wrote: "It is, in fact, a real swipe at the league that it shuts down for the Olympics. In effect, it is saying the Olympics are more important than the NHL.

"No other sport would do that."

Actually that is only correct if one take a parochial American view.  Plenty of soccer leagues around the world do just that for the World Cup every four years.  Some do it for regional championships as well.  Additionally, the NHL isn't the only hockey league in the world going quiet for the Olympics.  Generally, it is viewed as the equivalent of the World Cup for hockey.  Now I know, in the narrow American point of view, that doesn't account for much, but the last time I checked most hockey players weren't American so they might not be burdened by the prejudices the average American carry around.

Indeed, the American mind set on sport is largely absent from the rest of the world, and just maybe that is not such a bad thing.  Billion dollar soccer clubs routinely "release" their players so they can play for their home countries - and risk injuries doing so.  Sure the clubs aren't always happy about it, but for other parts of the world there are some things more important than the almighty dollar.

That American sports are more about business than anything else is nothing to be proud of I'm afraid.  If you really wanted to take a real courageous stand you might have cast a critical eye over an American sport's culture that encourages our children to forgo an education and abuse drugs in the name of fame and fortune.  (Additionally, what kind of mind believes it's O.K. for a pitcher to blow out his arm in Spring Training because at least they were doing it from the Pirates or Mets, but blowing out their arm in a World Baseball Classic is an abomination?   Do we as fans have the right to demand that if a player injures himself it should only be on our behest?)

Now, I certainly believe the Olympic hockey tournament should be switched to the Summer Games, but not because of the professional leagues' schedules.  Giving teams the time to practice and play together for a while would lead to better play on the ice, and a more thrilling tournament.  It is the Olympics that don't want to see that as hockey is such a marquee event for the Winter Games.

Good luck with the other hockey fans... and remember, don't put your fingers inside the cage.


Rich Horton
Political Science professor and St. Louis Blues fan.


To be clear, I in no way think my beliefs would speak for all or even a majority of hockey fans.  So, I'm throwing this out here.  What do people think?


I got a response.

From: Bob Smizik
Sent: Thu, Jan 21, 2010 4:14 pm
Subject: Re: (Bob Smizik's Blog) : Olympics/Hockey

The World Cup is the greatest championship in soccer.

The Stanley Cup is the greatest championship in hockey.
When soccer disrupts the World Cup for the Olympics, then you'll have a story. --- Bob Smizik


I wrote back (yep, still avoiding work):

Hi again,

Are you saying Team Canada or Team Russia wouldn't be able to defeat the Penguins 9 times out of 10?

If so, I'm pretty sure you are delusional.

To my mind, the "greatest championships" would involve the greatest teams, as defined by their play on the ice.  I'm odd that way.

Thanks for the response.

Rich Horton



I'll let Bob have the last word because that's just the way I roll:

I should have phrased that better.
The Stanley Cup is the most cherished championship in hockey. The World Cup is the most cherished championship in soccer.
When they shut down the World Cup for the Olympics, then you'll have a story.  --- Bob Smizik