Who are these guys?

Jason Strudwick
August 20 2012 07:48AM

London 2012 Banner (Michael Pead/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 2.0)

A couple of weeks ago on the Jason Gregor Show, Gregor, Mark Spector and I were discussing the Olympics. Spector mentioned he wasn't wild about watching the tennis tournament that takes place during the Olympics. He felt that he could watch the players most weekends, it was nothing new.

As I was driving home that day from the show I started thinking about that discussion. I love the Olympics but what made me feel that way? I figured out it was the unknown athletes and their stories that grabbed my attention. I started to realize I agreed with Spec.

Why was I watching the Olympic tennis so closely? For the most part it was the same top players I could watch all the time. Most Olympic athletes are not really discussed outside of Olympic years. We don't know a lot about them but once we get to know their stories we cheer for them like crazy!

There is a lot of talk about the NHL and NHLPA reaching a new deal for the upcoming season. Many big issues to discuss. Something that may be near the bottom of the list is NHL players participation in the winter Olympics. Fans, media and even the players have said how great the hockey is. This is true. We have all been treated to some incredible displays of skill.

But if NHL players were not part of the Olympics would it be so bad and would it affect our enjoyment of the Ice Hockey tournament?

Hold on, before you all jump down my throat: let me explain. Think about it. What is the most famous hockey team to participate in the Olympics? I guarantee you all thought of the 1980 Miracle on Ice team. It was made up of mostly young and unknown players. The U.S rallied around this group and loved them not only for the success they had. They cheered for the entire team and the passion they played with. Not one player stood above the group.

March 3, 1980 Sports Illustrated Cover

Imagine all nations teams and specifically the Canadian Olympic hockey team made up of non-NHL players. AHL, college, university, European and the major junior leagues would be the pool from which a team would be put together. That would be a tough task for the general manager of the club. For the most part everyone would be asking 'Who are these guys?'

It would be the same for every country. No current NHL players. As fans of hockey we would be treated to a different type of Olympic hockey then we have become accustomed to. No more Sidney Crosby or Eric Staal to cheer for. We would be true fans of the Canadian team as a whole.

A perfect example is this year's womens' Olympic soccer team. All of Canada fell in love with this squad. Yes they had a star in Christine Sinclair but outside of her we didn't know a lot of the players but we loved their heart and their passion to make Canada proud. It was a great run to watch.

Most likely, the new CBA will include a clause that will permit NHL'ers to play in the Olympics. I believe there is a desire from both sides to see that happen but part of me will be disappointed.

Call me maybe...

Does anyone else have the song 'Call me maybe' stuck in their heads. The U.S swim team put a video of themselves singing and dancing to it on YouTube. NBC played it quite often during the Olympics. I can't get it out of my head.

I probably shouldn't say this but I really like the song. I know, embarrassing.

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Jason hosts the Jason Strudwick show from 9pm to 12am, weeknights on the team 1260. He is an instructor at Mount Carmel Hockey Academy and loves working with the kids. Having played over 650 games in the NHL, Jason has some great stories and unique takes on life in the NHL. He loves Slurpees and Blizzards. Dislikes baggy clothes and close talkers.
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#1 michael
August 20 2012, 08:09AM
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In a sense I get what your saying. The guy from Nigeria in the rowing absolutely caught my attention. Or the South African runner on those bionic legs. The young 15 year old who won a swimming gold. Usain Bolt. On the other hand the USA's basketball team I didn't watch once. The outcome wasn't in doubt and the star power of these guys fades in comparison to what 10,000 other athletes bring to the Olympics every 4 years. How often do I watch Trampoline? Or weightlifting? Or beach Volleyball. Once every 4 years is when. Why. Because I admire the athleticism and the compete. I like the NHL players participating in the Olympics because hockey is more competitive and its a sport which the stars of the game are as likely to be Russian or Swedish as they are to be canadian or American. Its exciting for me because whether I accept it or not we Canadians are not the only nation on the planet who loves hockey. The Russians like us live and breath hockey. It certainly makes for exciting competition every four years.

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#2 David S
August 20 2012, 08:15AM
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Mmmmm...Olympic chicks. I'd call them...

Uh yeah. Olympics! Who are those guys? What?

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#3 MrMackey
August 20 2012, 08:20AM
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I get what you're saying but, unlike tennis, hockey is a team sport and it's not often when you get to see the best players of every country play together on the world stage. Even if they resurrected the Canada/World Cup, it doesn't get nearly the attention that the Olympics get.

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#4 treevojo
August 20 2012, 08:35AM
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I think you miss the point on why everyone would pick the miracle on ice. Obviously the reason it is so memorable is because it was a bunch of unknown Americans up against the best Russians in the world. A true underdog story. If it is a bunch of unknown players from all countries I think It loses the appeal that year obviously created. Don't get me wrong I would still watch and cheer for Canada but I think having the best players in the world there creates more drama.

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#5 The Soup Fascist
August 20 2012, 08:40AM
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Funny. I did not watch a minute of Men's basketball either. Granted I am not a huge NBA fan. But the reason for not watching was not to make a point but more like, meh, they are going to win by thirty, who cares.

Never thought about it much, but I think you are right, Jason. As long as the countries were on semi-even footing in term of who they were sending, it would be compelling.

The 1980 Olympic "Ice Hockey" victory was the perfect storm. The politics of the day were as much of the story as the actual on ice upset. That will never be recreated IMO.

When you think about it, in terms of the last four Winter Olympics, the only one that really was intriguing concerning the Canadian men's hockey was 2002, with the first gold in 50 yrs and looney-gate. 1998 will be remembered for Crawford's brain cramp, 2006 was a debacle for team Canada. And 2010, while Crosby's goal was exciting, to me felt like a World Cup tournament - almost separate from the Olympics. Moreso, had it not been held in Vancouver. I realize others will disagree with the last one, but I found other Olympic stories more compelling in 2010 - but that is just me.

Overall, though I would be open to other formats. Good food for thought, Jason.

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#6 Walter Sobchak
August 20 2012, 08:49AM
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The Olympics should be the best athletes in the world competing against the same.

Team Canada Hockey got clobbered by Eastern European teams for 45 years, was it our best athletes? Our best hockey players?

Then how do we truly know who the better country is? Who the best athlete is? Who deserved the Gold medal and the honor of calling themselves the best in the world at that event?

If you want the Olympics to be the vey best amateurs in the world then fine, but if you’re giving a gold medal to someone and then calling them the best at that sport it’s a little misguided.

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#7 treevojo
August 20 2012, 08:51AM
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I may be dreaming but my perfect scenario for the olympic hockey would be for the top 8 countries in the world to submit two teams a piece. Obviously in opposite pools until the crossovers. Am I alone in thinking that would make for the best tournament of all time.

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#8 book¡e
August 20 2012, 08:59AM
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When we watch trampoline, judo, or discus, those obscure athletes are the best in the world at their discipline. That is what makes the Olympics special. I don't know that a tournament of second tier hockey players has the same level of excitement (even the World Championships are not that meaningful given the lack of many of the best players).

I actually wish they would roll back the NHL season by about 10 games a year and have a World cup every four years and an Olympic tournament every four years (as has been discussed in the past).

ALso, if you like that song, you should get professional help.

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#9 bdiddy18
August 20 2012, 09:00AM
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Here is the problem Struds - it sounds very biased.

The initial selfish reason to have NHL players play in the Olympics was that it would give team CANADA the best opportunity to claim hockey superiority.

so now that team Canada closed off its most epic win in history winning gold on home soil...we are all of the sudden ok with not sending NHL players to the Olympics again.

It is also not fair for the international flavor the NHL now has. For the Europeans playing in the Olympics is a big a deal, for the Russians this time around its their turn to try to win on home soil.

There would be no other international format for hockey that would come even close to witness the compete level you see for a gold medal. Its is as close as hockey will ever get to something similar as the FIFA World Cup.

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#10 The Soup Fascist
August 20 2012, 09:01AM
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treevojo wrote:

I may be dreaming but my perfect scenario for the olympic hockey would be for the top 8 countries in the world to submit two teams a piece. Obviously in opposite pools until the crossovers. Am I alone in thinking that would make for the best tournament of all time.

It is out of the box thinking, I will concede that. My concern would be that other than Canada and maybe Sweden, Russia, US, the "B" teams would be absolute fodder due to lack of depth.

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#11 Zed
August 20 2012, 09:08AM
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Unrelated to the main plot but related to the sub plot of this post:

I read this article at 8:00pm when it was posted. Didn't click on the youtube link because I know better. Yet that damn song has crept in my head again. Even mentioning the title embeds the tune in my brain.

~thanks~

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#12 Bushed
August 20 2012, 09:57AM
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Interesting topic. My initial reaction was to say let's keep the Olympics as the best in amateur sport, and have a Canada Cup style tournament every 2-3 years--best of both worlds?

But even "amateur" sports isn't a level playing field when some countries can spend so much more than others on their athletes and programs, so that kind of diminishes a lot of the interest for me. Not to mention that little countries like Speck-in-the-ocean-stan (or Canada) don't have the population base to ever seriously challenge for many medals.

Then there's the athletes who "switch" countries (get "bought" by rich countries), kind of like free agents in the NHL... at least the feeling is the same from a fan's perspective.

I sometimes miss the days when teams "owned" players, because fans could pick "their" teams and players based as much on the players as the teams. Now, many fans are reluctant to get too emotionally invested in players, because free agency means you'll likely lose them to the highest bidder sooner or later. It forces us to choose between team loyalty or player loyalty as fans, or divided loyalties, which kind of confuses the issue.

To compare to the Olympics again, did you cheer like crazy for the woman's soccer player who chose to play for the US because she thought her chances of winning were better with the US team? Kind of sounds like NHL free agency, doesn't it?

I'm not advocating the loss of player rights (they deserve to get paid fairly), just saying I miss the days when fans had some hope that their stars could play most of their careers with the home team.

I think the NHL and players have forgotten the fans' point of view in this regard (or maybe I'm just being an old fart talking about the old days?).

Sigh.

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#13 David S
August 20 2012, 10:06AM
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I always thought the Olympics could be some sort of "Super World Championships". In sports like tennis where (because the top level is entirely professional) there are no specific, single gathering events to become crowned "World Champion" it might really mean something (and maybe why Roger Federer wanted it so badly). Thus for me it would mean something if that's what the Olympics morphed into. Yeah, every country could enter its best athletes, but it would still be a true World Championship.

Send the best of the best and let 'em duke it out I say. Pros, amateurs, who cares. As long as they represent the pinnacle of their sport.

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#14 EasyOil
August 20 2012, 10:07AM
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Have to admit Struds, I was interested in the tennis - but then that's cos I'm British, the games were in London and I loved watching Murray reap revenge on Federer for what happened a few weeks earlier. Sweet, sweet moment for British tennis, despite it not being classified as a major tournament (it should be rated higher than what it currently is though, 15th I think).

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#15 admiralmark
August 20 2012, 10:09AM
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I'm assuming that the KHL and Swedish Elite leagues are allowing all there players to participate in the Olympics by shutting those leagues down? If that is the case then i think its fair to assume Sweden and Russia would be playing for the Gold 9 times out of 10 if this were to happen. Well thats my guess anyway.

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How come pro boxers don't compete in the Olympics?

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#17 j
August 20 2012, 10:30AM
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I agree with some of the posters in that hockey requires an international tournament of some sort that showcases the best professionals in the world - akin to the World Cup (FIFA). Does it need to be the Olympics? No. But there is no substitute to watching Canadian men (and boys i.e. juniors) give blood, sweat and tears for their countries. Imagine Hall lining up with Crosby? Nug with Stamkos? Eberle with Staal? And across from them stand Ovie and Yak? Magnus and Lander (OK, that one is a stretch). Incredible.

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#18 Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things
August 20 2012, 10:56AM
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When I watch the olympics, I love seeing athletes compete at the absolute highest level of competition. I don't see much of a benefit in excluding the world's top-tier athletes just because they get paid to do what they do. To me, it cheapens the win. When you take the NHL out of olympic hockey, the gold medalist isn't necessarily the best in the world - they're just the best out of the people who were allowed to compete.

Edit: Additionally, how is a professional hockey player's life different than a Chinese "amateur" diver's?

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#19 BurkeTheTurd
August 20 2012, 11:21AM
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I think we already have that to an extent with the WJC. Canada rallies to support them and its great. But I still want to see NHL players.

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#20 Pucker
August 20 2012, 11:28AM
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For me, the joy in watching NHL players compete in the Olympics was that Canada was put more on a level playing field with CCCP. For years we were sending amateurs to compete with the best players in the CCCP because, they were essentially guys in the army that happened to play hockey (~). .

This would now change with the disolution of the CCCP, and it should moreso because of the KHL. It would be interesting to see a tournament of the best, excluding the NHL, KHL and SEL.

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#21 bmac
August 20 2012, 11:32AM
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Great song, Struds

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#22 DieHard
August 20 2012, 11:48AM
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Might as well hand the gold to Switzerland.

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#23 Muji
August 20 2012, 01:21PM
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When I watch the Olympics, I expect to see the very best athletes compete for their countries.

As such... (1) Tennis (or any other sport) is still exciting because it's still Murray vs. Federer, but it's also GB vs Switzerland (2) I definitely do want NHL players there. More importantly (especially for the Russians in 2014), the players WANT to be there.

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#24 treevojo
August 20 2012, 03:19PM
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@The Soup Fascist

I would think the "b" teams of the lower teir countries would have about the same chance as norway, Belarus, Latvia and Germany have to medal in the current system.

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#25 A-Mc
August 20 2012, 03:26PM
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To me the Olympics is supposed to be the best of the best, regardless of what they do for a day job.

On any given NHL day, i can't cheer for the Canadians that are kicking ass elsewhere in the NHL because I'm a committed Oilers fan. Every year during the playoffs, i get scolded for wishing the Vancouver Canucks sink like an anchor in round 1; the argument is that its a Canadian team and therefore i should cheer for it.

BULL!

Vancouver is not a Canadian team. Its a Multinational team in a Canadian CITY.

The Olympics is the only opportunity i have to cheer on my fellow Canadians as they compete for ultimate glory in the sport of Hockey. Please dont take that away from me!

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#26 jake
August 20 2012, 03:33PM
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Anyone remember 1994 Lilhammer, Canada-Sweden final? I had no fingernails left after that one. No active NHLers in that tournament.

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#27 DonDon
August 20 2012, 04:14PM
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This is a topic that has been hotly discussed by fans for years prior to NHL players finally being permitted to play in sanctioned international ice hockey contests, including the Olympics.

I'm sure NHL owners would prefer not to have their players involved in the Winter Olympics. It screws up their schedule and there is the possibility of serious injuries to their star players in the middle of the season.

Here are two schools of thought:

1) Hockey, like basketball, should be part of the Summer Olympics. The NBA's schedule is almost identical to the NHL's, so what is the difference? This arrangement wouldn't interrupt hockey league schedules around the world, particularly shutting down the NHL for two weeks in the middle of its season and delaying the Stanley Cup playoffs.

2) I believe basketball will be accorded the same treatment as soccer in the next Summer Olympics, open to players under the age of 23. In the London Summer Olympics, soccer associations affiliated with FIFA were invited to send their senior women's and men's under-23 national teams to participate; men's teams were allowed to augment their squads with three players over the age of 23.

Would the former arrangement would be best for players and fans? The latter arrangement is the new trend in addressing professional team sports in the Olympics.

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#28 Pouzar99
August 20 2012, 05:03PM
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I largely agree with DonDon. The solution is simple. Have a Winter Olympic hockey competition similar to the men's Olympic soccer (really football) competition. Also have a Hockey World Cup for the top pros every 4 years, played halfway between Winter Olympics.

We need some kind of genuine, legitimate, no excuses world hockey championship for bragging rights and the good of the game every 4 years and it would be nice to reserve the Olympic hockey competition for the younger players, preferably making it the World Junior Championship of that year under the auspices of the Winter Olympics.

Or we could just hold the hockey World Cup every time Gary Bettman and the owners lock out the players, which comes almost as often as the Olympics anyway.

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#29 oilerman53
August 20 2012, 05:10PM
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2 Words: Summer Olympics 3 Words: Womens Beach Volleyball 1 Word: Masturbation 5 Words: Damn I need a girlfriend!

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#30 ubermiguel
August 20 2012, 05:27PM
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I like watching the best athletes in the world play once every 4 years. Yeah, I enjoy watching the WJCs, and 1994 in Lillehammer was epic, and the Miracle on Ice was probably fantastic (too young to remember it)...but watching those tournaments I'm always thinking "these guys are good...but they're not the best."

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#31 Reg Dunlop
August 20 2012, 09:38PM
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@oilerman53

Hey, brother, way too much information.

I watched some USA basketball. Truly, just like a German Shep versus a rag doll. But, the best part is when Lebron James dunks over a 5 foot tall white guy and then celebrates like he cured cancer.

Any talk about NHL players not participating in the olympics... not likely since hockey is the marquee event of the winter games and the IOC is just a business. That explains why the NHL is wanted but why does the NHL want the Olympics? Do the owners or the PA benefit financially? There must be a reason to make the inconvenience every 4 years worthwhile.

As far as the olympic ideal of unknown amateurs comming out of nowhere and pulling off the upset like 1980... is it just me or does this NEVER happen anymore? When it does, it is memorable. Like the 1983 Universiade when the Canadian b-ball team knocked off Charles Barkley-led team USA. So, I guess I would be OK with a return to true amateur competition at the olympics but I do like the best pro hockey players competing better.

As for women's beach volleyball, remember they are all someone's daughter or someone's mother. Keep it clean, oilerman53, and remember; the interweb is a source of pornography as well as a source of Oiler news. Now, my girlfriend Palmela awaits.

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#32 JMC88
August 20 2012, 11:59PM
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I personally don't think it is at all a sure thing that the NHL will continue to partner with the Olympics for hockey.

The NHL will probably reluctantly allow its players to participate in the 2014 Winter Games since these are in Sochi, Russia.

But, the 2018 Winter Games will be in Pyeongchang, South Korea which is not exactly a hockey hotbed. I think the NHL will be extremely reluctant to participate in these games.

The location of the 2022 Winter Games will be decided in 2015 with bids closing in 2013. The list of potential bidders has a lot of small European countries on it, not many of which are hockey strong nations. None cities from Canada, U.S., Russia, Sweden, or Finland are expected to bid.

If a hockey supportive country Germany (through Munich) wins the 2022 bid, then perhaps the NHL will continue its participation to 2022. If not (countries like Spain, France, Kazahkstan, and Ukraine are potential bidders) , then I would not be surprised if the NHL decided not to participate in the 2018 and 2022 Games.

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#33 Pouzar99
August 21 2012, 03:45AM
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The NHL may not have a choice about the Olympics. The Russian players are going to Sochi whatever the owners say. You can count on it. Yak will be on the plane and so will the rest of them. How can the Canadian players not go after the Russians came to Vancouver? The last time that stunt was pulled in 1976 the Russians and friends boycotted the 1980 games in LA, which cheapened two straight Olympics. We can debate S Korea, the 2018 hosts later. Its not like they have been sending hockey teams to other countries, but it is not fair to the Russians, who have sent teams to 4 Olympics in other places. The players want to play of course. The owners don't want to risk their assets for games played outside of prime time.

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#34 steelman
August 22 2012, 01:21AM
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try "Harvard Baseball does Call me baby cover song" on youtube. Priceless

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