We’ve all heard the rumours that NHL players might not be in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
The reasons given are simple. The Olympics were created for amateur athletes to compete for medals in their respective events. Professional athletes, meanwhile, are no long classified as amateur because, well, they’re professional.
The reason not given is because the host nation, South Korea, would get absolutely decimated by nations such as Slovenia and Latvia. I shudder just thinking about what the goals against average and save percentage for Kweon Yung Kim or Yeon Seung Lee (two real South Korean goalies) would be should they have to face a team with the likes of Steven Stamkos, Jordan Eberle, Matt Duchene and P.K. Subban.
I want you all to look at it this way. Back when the Olympics were created there was no such thing as a professional sporting event. Every athlete in the world was considered amateur.
Fast forward to the present, where people are complaining about professional athletes taking up Olympic spots and ruining the Olympic dreams of amateur athletes.
Sure, you could make a good argument backing that case. Then again, aren’t the Olympics for the best athletes from each country?
Wouldn’t you be taking away from the dignity and essence of the Olympic Games if you were to ban an athlete, or group of athletes, because they were simply “too good”?
Yes. Of course it would be taking away from the spirit of the games. Let me ask you this: How many people, honestly, will tune in to watch the 2018 men’s hockey games at the Winter Olympics if the stars headlining the teams are players from beer league teams throughout their respective countries?
Because that’s who would have to compete. If professional athletes are banned from the Olympics, then that means players from all professional leagues. No one from the SEL, KHL, Liiga, NLA or, heck, even Austria’s Erste Bank Eishockey Liga (here’s looking at you, Matt Zaba) would be able to participate.
Right now this topic is coming up for discussion because of the 2014 Winter Olympics and the men’s hockey event that began yesterday with the Czechs playing Sweden, two teams who have a wealth of NHL talent on their rosters, and Latvia battling Switzerland (two of my favourite hockey nations outside of Canada).
But it could be made for the Summer Olympics as well. After all, the NBA allows their players to take part in the Olympics, just like the NHL does.
Personally, I’m all for it. Let the best of the best do battle for the gold medal. If that means professionals taking on professionals then so beat it.
At least we know it will be the best possible athletes playing, which will result in the most entertaining events. Which is something that the Olympics was originally about, wasn’t it?
By the way, every athlete that participates is basically a professional in their chosen sport. They all compete internationally, have sponsors and win money for whatever success the see during competition.
They just aren’t labeled as such.