According to a Tweet by NHL player agent Allan Walsh, NHL players are "highly likely" to compete in the 2014 Olympics. As with any news concerning the NHL, you should never take any news seriously until it has been officially confirmed, but this rumor gives us a chance to discuss whether or not NHL players should compete in the Olympics.
The 2014 Olympics games will take place between February 7th and February 23rd in Sochi, Russia.
These rumors are at least positive ones. It's nice to see that players supposedly will attend as compared to it being rumored that they won't be attending.
The topic of NHL players playing in the Olympics is a bit of a controversial one. Those in favor will point to the fact that the Olympics are supposed to feature the World's best competing to prove which country is the best in a given sport. If the NHL opts not to send their players over, the Olympic hockey competition instantly loses some credibility. How can the country that takes gold really claim to be the best when they didn't use, nor did they face, the actual best hockey players on the planet?
On the flip side, those against the NHL sending players over will argue it interrupts the NHL season and that injuries could derail an NHL team's season. These are fair arguments, but they fail to recognize the sport of hockey on a grander scale, instead focusing on team achievements in the NHL.
In my opinion, the NHL needs to send players to the Olympics. The risk of injury is present, but the positives outweigh the potential negatives. The NHL needs to continue to grow its brand, especially in the wake of the NHL lockout. If they refused to participate, not only would it make the NHL look a bit pretentious, but it would take away from what is supposed to be the World's celebration of the game of hockey.
In addition, the 2014 games taking place in Russia should add a whole other element to the debate. Russian hockey fans would be furious if they weren't allowed to see Alex Ovechkin – among other Russian stars – compete for the gold in their home country. As we all know, the NHL's biggest competitor in the world of hockey is Russia's KHL. The NHL could use the Olympic games as a way to flaunt their power/ego (something they love to do), showing off all of the great players that call the NHL home.
Need another argument supporting NHL players participating in the Olympics? Think back to the 2010 games and how memorable (for better or worse, depending who you align with) they were. Think about how seemingly everyone – even those that don't follow the NHL – were buzzing about Team USA and how much that buzz likely grew the sport of hockey in America. It's highly unlikely that buzz will exist if the country is represented by players that most fans have never heard of.
Keep an eye on this story moving forward. The NHL should officially decide on what they plan to do in regards to the 2014 Olympics in the very near future.