Will you care about men's Olympic hockey if neither NHL, KHL take part?

From ESPN - December 6, 2017

Will you care about the men's Olympic hockey tournament if neither NHL nor KHL players can participate?

Greg Wyshynski: Admittedly, the Olympic men's hockey tournaments that have involved NHL players have been absolutely extraordinary. Imagine the NHL All-Star Game, except instead of a winning a big car after playing methodical exhibition hockey, the players are battling for national pride, Olympic immortality and playing with a ferocity not seen until the deepest levels of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

There's just no replicating that, as anyone who saw the World Cup of Hockey will testify. The NHL players will be missed, even if I sympathize with the league in its battle against the abject greed and avarice of the International Olympic Committee.

In place of that unmatched elite level of play? Great stories and new heroes. The chance for a player like Linden Vey, out of the NHL at 26, to become an Olympic hero for Team Canada. The chance for Matt Gilroy, a NCAA star who last played in the NHL in 2014, to win gold for the U.S. and maybe earn his way back to the league. Or the chance for Ilya Kovalchuk and Pavel Datsyuk to win gold for ... uh ... "Olympic Athletes From Russia," or whatever.

Therein lies the other big issue now facing the Games: That if there are no KHL players in the games, it will drain the talent pool even further. No Kovalchuk or Datsyuk or Vey or Gilroy or dozens of others who compete in the Russian league. Every nation in the tournament will be impacted. The quality of play, and familiarity with the players, will drop.

But even then, the tournament will be one I will watch. First, because it's Olympic hockey, which is like catnip to me as an Olympic junkie and a puckhead. Second, because these dramatic decisions by the NHL and (potentially) the KHL will have thrown the whole thing into unpredictable chaos. All bets are off. One hot goalie for two weeks, and Slovenia is your gold medal winner. It's that nuts.

I will watch it for the drama, for the new faces and for the old ones rescued from obscurity to become Olympic heroes. Meanwhile, for the incredible skill and brilliant intensity that we will have lost with the lack of pros in these Games, there's only one place to turn: The women's ice hockey tournament, where Canada and the U.S. will continue their blood feud and have us all wondering why we are wasting so much attention on an inferior men's draw to begin with.

Emily Kaplan: The NHL skipping the 2018 Olympics is a travesty for America. Team USA is enjoying a renaissance of young -- and marketable -- stars like we have not seen in two decades. "The talent level now, it really reminds me of our group the mid-to-late-'90s," Mike Modano told me in August. And then Modano echoed what you have now been reminded of at least four dozen times since August. There's nothing like an Olympic stage: "The eyes of the world are on you, and it puts the NHL on the forefront," he said. "People get to see the best of the NHL players. To get all these stars together for a congested two-week period? It's an incredible way to market the game."

So not only are we being denied the chance to watch Auston Matthews front and center for Team USA, plus the possibility of Johnny Gaudreau and Jack Eichel skating on a line together, but mainstream America is missing out on a much-needed introduction to these guys.


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