The other day, I came across an article about Wayne Gretzky wanting to see NHL players like Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews donning the maple leaf as part of Team Canada at the Olympics.
When I looked into it further, I found a lengthy history of the NHL being on the fence about allowing their athletes to participate in the Olympics.
While there were a number of occassions where Canadians such as Gretzky and Sidney Crosby went, the NHL decided ahead of the 2018 games not to allow their members to participate due to disputes with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) regarding costs incurred by NHL athletes and who would pay for them. Another reason given at the time was the league didn’t want to disrupt the season to accomodate those going to play.
The decision forced teams to look outside of the NHL rosters for players, and gave a lot more athletes the chance to make their country’s team.
That’s one of the reasons why I really don’t think athletes from organizations like the NHL or NBA should participate in the Olympics and that it should just be open to amateur athletes.
When I was in high school, one of my classes had a debate about this subject. In order to increase our chances of winning gold, one of my classmates said you should look at those who are at the top of their game to represent their country. His logic was if they were really good, they would be in the NHL and should be considered first before others.
But, is that really true?
According to a 2003 study conducted by Hockey Canada, someone’s chance of getting into the NHL is one in 4,000. In Jim Parcels’ 2016 book “Selling the Dream: How Hockey Parents and Their Kids are Paying the Price for Our National Obsession”. he found 0.16 per cent of boys will get drafted into the NHL and only 0.02 per cent make a career out of it.
With those numbers in mind, I think it could be argued the big leagues aren’t the only place Olympic team scouts should be considering. Some could have just missed the mark, or gone to play elsewhere. Why should they be punished, or overlooked, just because they aren’t playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, Boston Bruins, or Detroit Red Wings?
Yes, it sucks that McDavid and Matthews may never get the chance to represent their home country because they’ve accomplished what many people couldn’t. But, that gives other players who didn’t make the NHL the chance to play at the Olympics and possibly achieve one of their dreams.