Who are these guys?

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.

  • 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.

  • The Soup Fascist

    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.

  • treevojo

    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.

  • 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.

  • Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

    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.