Dear Mr. Bettman,
I am a lifelong sports fan with the great game of hockey being my personal favorite.
As I watched the proceedings over the past two weeks in Rio I couldn’t help but think about our grand old game and the international stage.
This weekend in particular I saw professional athletes compete in basketball and soccer. Yes, the USA men’s and women’s teams that were loaded with NBA and WNBA talent lead the way en route to gold medals. Once again it was sport at its best, not college kids against “professionals” from nations lead by dictators.
Today’s bronze medal basketball game came down to the wire and was gripping. It featured Australia and Spain, who also carried NBA talent. The United States squad that dominated Serbia this afternoon almost lost to them earlier in the tournament. The semi-final game against Spain was also close.
On the soccer pitch both men’s and women’s play was even and spread among many teams. Brazil’s men took gold in dramatic fashion as penalty kicks decided their match with Germany. The American women were supposed to dominate, however they ran into a machine from Sweden, who almost beat Germany for gold.
All of this backdrop brings me to the point of this letter.
Imagine if the NBA, WNBA, and various soccer leagues were contemplating what you keep hinting at involving international play and the National Hockey League.
Once again there is talk of the NHL not sending players to Pyongyang in 2018. What a colossal shame it would be!
Since professionals joined the Olympics in 1998 consider how the gold medal has been distributed. Canada, who could never beat the Soviets with their amateurs, have won three times. The Czech Republic and Sweden won the other two. The last time the machine from Russia saw gold was when the Unified Team won in 1994.
I am genuinely excited for the upcoming World Cup Of Hockey. I love to see the NHL’s best having the deck shuffled. While it makes for great theater, this is a preseason tournament with most of the players coming back from the off-season. The players aren’t ready for the regular season let alone a world-class international tournament.
If the National Hockey League is considering ending its relationship with the Olympics, as a hockey fan I urge you to reconsider.
I live in South Florida and follow the Florida Panthers. I would love to see the likes of Aaron Ekblad play for Canada and Aleksandr Barkov play against his teammate while wearing the crest of his native Finland. Consider the story line of a 46-year-old Jaromir Jagr playing once again for the Czech Republic. By the way Jagr would turn 46 during the 2018 Winter Games.
American hockey was the top story in the recent NHL draft. Could a strong Olympic presence of the US be the reason?
So many other story lines could be made. Can Alexander Ovechkin lead the Russians to its next gold medal? Can a growing pool of American talent bring home gold for the first time since the Miracle in 1980?
If the NHL does pull out of Olympic play I can’t help but think that we would return to the same old Russian dominance at the Olympics. The Russians would send a Kontinental Hockey League all-star team to the games. The professionals would run away with the gold in the same fashion as the American women from the WNBA did once more in Rio.
Please take this into consideration.
Hockey Fan Since 1970