BY THOMAS HALL
Hockey in the Winter Olympics has always meant a lot to Canadians, but with players from the NHL not participating in this year’s games how will the tournament be affected?
“From a business end of things, I can only imagine how the TV networks who pay the millions of dollars for the rights to the games feel right now. I imagine they’re pretty upset with the whole situation,” said Aaron Ward, former NHL player, in a phone interview.
The ratings are expected to take a big hit in Canada, but they might not be as bad as people expect.
“I suspect the ratings will be affected adversely here in Canada, but I think the ratings will really depend on the competitiveness of the tournament. If it’s good competitive hockey and if there’s some good stories, I think people will definitely watch,” said Ken Campbell columnist at The Hockey News.
A lot of the big-name players in the NHL have voiced their opinions on not being able to participate in the Olympics, but Ward explains how the players will be feeling mentally leading up to the games.
“I think they’ll be feeling bitter especially as we get closer to the Olympics. I don’t think it’ll be something that the players will have resentment towards for too long. I’m sure they’re pretty pissed off right now, but as the season begins that’ll be sort of forgotten up until the Olympics come around,” said Ward.
Ward also explains how the media will play a factor in displaying how the players feel about not going to the Olympics.
“I’m sure the media will be asking questions to the players who expressed their desire to play, and how they feel about sitting over here in North America as the Olympics are going on over in Asia and they’re missing out on them,” said Ward.
The scouting officials for Team Canada will have to look long and hard for the players they will recruit for they’re team and Ward explains where those players might come from.
“I imagine that they’ll recruit players from the elite leagues in Europe, maybe one or two college kids, and maybe some undrafted kids from the CHL. The good news about the Canadian players from the European leagues is that they’re already accustumed to the Olympic-style rinks out there. But I imagine the scouting director for Team Canada will leave no stone unturned to find these players,” said Ward.
Ward played for Team Canada when they won the Spengler Cup back in 1992, and he says that this year’s Spengler Cup will be seen as a tryout for the scouting department for Team Canada.
“Team Canada can utilize the Spengler as a test for seeing where the skilled players are, and being able to assemble a similar team they might use in the Olympics,” said Ward.
Campbell explains a potential problem the International Olympic Committee could create for the NHL going into the 2022 Winter Olympics.
“I think the NHL absolutely is going to want to go to China for the next Olympics, I think it’ll just be a matter of whether or not the IOC says you can’t just pick and choose which Olympics you want to come to and maybe we’ll say you just can’t come at all,” said Campbell.