With the Sharks winning streak now over at 6 games it’s worth noting just how impressive their run was.
In victories over Washington, Florida, Tampa Bay, Calgary, Winnipeg and Minnesota the Sharks managed to win 3 times on the road and 3 times at SAP Center. Four of the wins were by a single goal, the victory over the Capitals came in a shootout and they blanked the Panthers 3-0 while also shutting out Winnipeg 1-0. And let’s not forget how they overcame Martin St. Louis 4 goal effort for the Lightning and still found a way to win. That was also the only game during the streak in which they gave up any power play goals. In the other 5 games the penalty kill was a perfect 8 for 8.
It also bodes well for the rest of the season that the Sharks performed so well considering the lineup that Todd McLellan was forced to play due to injuries. Matt Nieto, Eriah Hayes, Backen Kearns and Alex Stalock have each appeared in less than 50 NHL games in their careers. Matt Irwin and John McCarthy are both under 100 games played. In fact if you combine all of their experience in the league it totals 251 games, less than Logan Couture’s 275. That’s impressive! But it’s also expected. Every year the Sharks carefully draft and then develop players with the expectation that at some point they will be able to make a contribution at the NHL level. All those mentioned have indeed contributed and here’s hoping another long winning streak is about to start all over again.
I’m Randy Hahn
One day, not too long after Dustin Brown ended Tomas Hertl’s consecutive games-played streak and Kellan Lain played 0:02 and picked up 15 penalty minutes in his NHL debut, just as the finishing touches of Sharks captain Joe Thornton’s and alternate captain Patrick Marleau’s contract extensions were finalized and Anze Kopitar prepared to play at Dodger Stadium against Ryan Getzlaf in front of over 55,000 spectators, a seemingly unthinkable event occurred.
The Vancouver Canucks center, Henrik Sedin, was held out of a game against the Edmonton Oilers, and his lengthy ironman streak came to an end at an amazing 679 games.
I immediately wondered whether Patrick Marleau’s current ironman streak would graduate into the top 5 among active NHL players, and after counting it up positively, we got the folks at the organization we fondly refer to as the “Patrick Elias Sports Bureau” to double check it for us.
We were correct. Marleau is currently 5th on the active NHL ironman list, behind leader Jay Bouwmeester (686), Andrew Cogliano (512), Antoine Vermette (363), and Keith Yandle (355). It’s the second longest such streak in Sharks history, right behind Thornton’s 379 games, which was set between the day the captain was acquired from Boston and March 27, 2010.
The subjects of speed, stickhandling ability, hand-eye coordination, balance, checking ability, and shooting ability often get discussed when talking about the cream of the NHL’s crop. However, there is another subject that needs to be considered when truly understanding the impact of what players bring to the table in the NHL today.
Imagine the schedule, the challenges of travel, the sheer toll that the game places on an individual player’s body each season. Tack on the fact that the top players in question are playing against the best players on the other team nearly all of the time, and knock on every piece of wood possible, because durability is one of the most important qualities of any NHL superstar.
Let’s look at a recent accounting of some of the top players in the game today:
|Player, Team||GP Since 2005-06||Pct. Team Total GP||GP Since 2007-08||Pct. Team Total GP|
|Joe Thornton, SJS||668||99.10%||505||99.00%|
|Patrick Marleau, SJS||659||97.80%||500||98.00%|
|Ryan Getzlaf, ANA||606||89.90%||467||91.60%|
|Anze Kopitar, LAK||502||98.40%|
|Henrik Sedin, VAN||672||99.70%||508||99.60%|
|Daniel Sedin, VAN||643||95.40%||480||94.10%|
|Sidney Crosby, PIT||522||77.50%||362||71.00%|
|Evgeni Malkin, PIT||421||82.50%|
When you count the fact that Joe Thornton has currently skated in 251 straight contests, which ranks fourth all-time in Sharks history, it’s absolutely remarkable to note that in his nine seasons with the team, he has missed a grand total of only 5 regular season games. Over the same span, Marleau has missed only 15.
When you compare and contrast that with other top stars in the game, the Sharks duo of Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau are miles ahead of most, doing it in the ultra-competitive Western Conference with all of the travel considerations therein. It really is a remarkable achievement to date, and it really gives Sharks fans cause for celebration to learn that they have agreed to extend their time in Silicon Valley three additional years.
Let’s not take their contributions for granted. They are true NHL stars, and it’s a privilege to watch them work toward their ultimate goal of bringing a Stanley Cup to San Jose.
Thank you, Joe and Patrick. I’m Dan Rusanowsky, for sjsharks.com.
This and that…
--With the Winnipeg Jets paying their first visit to San Jose last night, it made me think of the World Hockey Association. The WHA was a rival league which impacted hockey significantly in the ‘70s but also has made its mark on the 21st century NHL.
--The WHA brought with it overtime to regular season games. The league played a sudden-death 10-minute period for games ending in regulation tied. The WHA was the first league to draw European talent in large numbers to North America.
--The Winnipeg Jets franchise (now the Phoenix club) gave the league immediate credibility when it signed the great Bobby Hull to a long-term multi-million dollar contract. The WHA also were the first to draft 18-year olds. At the time the NHL drafted 20-year olds. Following a 7-year war, the NHL absorbed Winnipeg, Hartford, Quebec and Edmonton into the NHL. The bidding war for hockey talent made it possible for professional hockey players to be paid full market value.
--The current Winnipeg Jets are presently in their 3rd season after being relocated from Atlanta. These Jets were not part of the WHA, but it offends me to see that the Jets’ Evander Kane wears number 9. The Golden Jet, Bobby Hull, gave so much to major league hockey and made it possible for the NHL to be successful in secondary Canadian markets and was key in getting Winnipeg major league status.
--How about Captain America Joe Pavelski’s incredible scoring streak? The Sharks Wisconsin-born centerman has notched a remarkable 18 goals in his last 20 games. The only Teal wearing player to score more was Jonathan Cheechoo who scored 20 goals in a 20-game span back in 2005-06. The Sharks #8’s recent exploits have raised “USA-USA-USA” chants from the Sharks fans in San Jose. Joe is maxing out his talent and is tireless in his preparation and in game production. “Little Joe” has 27 goals in 50 games, and is on a pace for 44 goals, 2nd to the Capitals Alexander Ovechkin. Pavelski will have a huge impact on Team USA’s drive toward an Olympic Medal next month in Sochi Russia.
--I enjoyed Sharks TV color man Drew Remenda’s take on the opening faceoff series of fights last Saturday as the Flames visited Vancouver. Drew floated the opinion that these sorts of things happen every once in a while and to true longtime fans recognize that. The mainstream media may be wringing its hands, but the NHL community should not be concerned. For the last 20-25 years the NHL has courted a broader fan base (particularly in the US) with little to show for it. I look at the NHL as a huge world-wide club open to whomever wants to join, but I don’t believe we should change our game for those who couldn’t care less.
--Be sure to tune in to NBC Sports Network tomorrow at 6:30 PM when the Ducks and Kings square off in the first warm weather outdoor game at Dodger Stadium. Sunday NBC will be at Yankee Stadium for an outdoor tilt featuring the Rangers and the Devils. Who knows…a Northern California outdoor game could be in the NHL’s future.
--What’s up with the NHL’s injury updates featuring only ‘upper body’ or ‘lower body’ descriptions? The reports are so vague they might as well say nothing at all.
--Lost Wages. Next time the NHL expands there will be a need to put more teams in the west. Currently the Eastern Conference has 16 teams while the Western Conference has only 14 clubs.
How about a team in Las Vegas? During the winter snow birds from around the world visit Nevada for the warm weather, entertainment and gambling. Given their position in the sports pecking order I think hockey should be first. However precautions need to be made to ensure gamblers never get to close to the game and its players. The city would be wise to welcome the NHL with open arms.
--Monday night will be the first meeting between the Sharks and Kings since Dustin Brown’s questionable hit on San Jose rookie scorer Tomas Hertl. Hertl had to undergo surgery and it is unclear if he can return this season. The game at SAP Center Monday starts at 7:00pm and will be televised on the NBC Sports Network.
Enjoy the games.
Back on January 6, the Sharks announced that Logan Couture would have surgery for an upper body injury. He would be out for at least 2-3 weeks. At the time, the Sharks were already without forwards Tomas Hertl, Martin Havlat, Raffi Torres and Adam Burish. How could the Sharks possibly have enough offense to score three goals a night, universally recognized as the “magic number” to have a legitimate chance to win? What would LWL (life without Logan) be like?
Enter The Big Pavelski!
With Couture out of the lineup, Head Coach Todd McLellan had to hope the rest of his team would collectively make up the offensive slack in the absence of one of his better scorers, and that’s been the case. But no single player has picked up that slack in a more dominant fashion than winger/center Joe Pavelski.
Since Couture’s injury the Sharks have fashioned a 5-2 record and Pavelski has been on one of the best offensive runs of his 8-year NHL career. In those seven games he has 9 goals and an assist including his first ever hat trick. Going back to January 1 when he was named to Team USA for the upcoming Winter Olympic Games, Pavelski has 11 goals and two assists.
It’s been amazing to watch Pavelski this month, but should we really be all that surprised? Great players tend to be at their best when the pressure is on. Pavelski has come through in a big way and with six goals in his last 3 games he’s showing no signs of cooling off.
Joe Pavelski will never be “Little Joe” to me. He’s “The Big Pavelski” 100%, and he’s made LWL a lot easier to deal with.
Hey Dad, I want to go…
The NHL hit a home run with their most recent ‘Winter Classic’. Over 105,000 people attended the outdoor game in Ann Arbor on January 1. The league deserves full marks for a great event. My only criticism was that the TV broadcast failed to translate the enormity of the event. Also with a rink in the middle of a football field, there appeared a limited sense of intimacy.
I’m very curious how the upcoming games at Dodger Stadium, Yankee Stadium, Soldier Field and BC Place in Vancouver will go.
The enemy of taking ice outside is not temperature but rain. If we get dry days the games should go well. The question many have is, has the NHL bitten off more that it can chew? The league has gone from a singular ‘Winter Classic’, to multiple games in multiple markets. Those questions will be answered shortly after the final game on March 2nd in Vancouver.
Is there a better way, an opportunity?
Looking into my crystal ball, I can envision a day..…
…when the NHL will own and operate a true, custom built, outdoor hockey stadium. It would be built on the U.S.-Canadian border just north of International Falls, Minnesota. This location would all but guarantee sub-freezing weather from December to March. It would have a 40,000 to 50,000 capacity. The stands would begin immediately at the boards and would have steep series of rows much like most of the indoor arenas in the NHL. Rows would be fairly steep allowing for both a large audience and an intimate view. The design would be a 270 degree bowl configuration. The stadium would be positioned right against scenic lake with ancient pine trees. The vast majority of fans and TV broadcasts would enjoy a breath-taking scenic/iconic winter view.
When the weather allows the lake would be a staging area for a series of outdoor, natural shinny rinks. NHL fans and amateur players, young and old players would come from around the world for not only NHL games, but also to play in amateur tournaments. College, minor league, and International games could also be played here also. Youth tournaments from across North America would be played there nearly every weekend.
The NHL would use their “Heritage Stadium” for the NHL Winter Classic on New Year’s Day. It also would be the site of a Christmas-season four-team tournament with a special trophy going to the tourney winning team. Winning the Xmas event would mean a return the next season. The NHL would also stage a series of regular season games there on a frequent basis. All 30 teams would play at least one game there every two years. Fans of NHL teams would have access all-inclusive travel packages which would include flights, game tickets, rooms at hockey-themed hotels, food, beverage and Heritage Stadium merchandise. NHL sponsors would have access to many of these events allowing them market their businesses.
The NHL would move the Hall-of-Fame from Toronto to join the USA Hockey Hall-of-Fame near International Falls. The border location would make this a hockey pilgrimage destination for fans/teams from both the US and Canada.
Much like skiing venues ‘Heritage Stadium’ would have a special ‘Hockey Village’. The village would boast Hockey-themed restaurants, hotels, shops and theaters. Indoors rinks would provide venues for summer-time hockey schools and training centers. NHL teams would frequently hold club training camps there.
After just a few years I believe this would be an amazing venue. It would be literally be the center of the hockey universe. It would quickly become a bucket list visit for fans from around the world.
It might sound like the pipe dream of a rink rat, but who knows?”
It’s an off day on the road in Plantation, Florida for the San Jose Sharks and those of us who tag along for the ride. It’s a good day to catch up on rest (got here from Washington, DC at 3:30 a.m.), do some preparation for Thursday's tilt with the Panthers, go for a beach run in Fort Lauderdale and answer some leftover questions from Sharks fans on Twitter. Here we go.
What is your all-time favorite toppings combination for a pizza? @Rcordero1241h
I’ve tried some pretty wild ones. In Maui, there’s a joint that sells pizza with chopped clams. Back in 1990, when I did play-by-play for the World Cup in Italy, we had a pizza that had prosciutto and cheese on it with a fried egg right in the middle of the pie. It was delicious actually. I’m not sure why it is this way in Canada, but when I was a kid growing up in the Yukon it seemed like everybody’s favorite was Canadian bacon and pineapple. To this day it’s my favorite too. It must be the salty and sweet thing.
Hi. Is there an address I could send a pic I would love autographed? Marleau took a shot at my head 1 pre-skate :) @sfmariae8h
Any and all mail to players should be sent c/o: San Jose Sharks 525 West Santa Clara Street, San Jose, CA 95113. Please be patient. As you can imagine it’s quite a chore for players to keep up with fan mail and autograph requests during the NHL season.
Who would win in a fight, you or Drew Remenda? @DirtyManimal17h
There is a very simple answer to this somewhat disturbing question. Remenda. Drew is a training machine. The man works out 2 or 3 times a day. He does chin-ups on the doorframes of the broadcast booth when we’re off camera during the intermissions. There are Prada models with more body fat than my partner has. He would crush me in a few seconds. He would go all Mike Brown on me. When the dust settled I wouldn’t be day to day, I’d be season to season.
Is there a reason why you and Drew went behind Dan Boyle during his pre-game interview in Washington? #TryingToStealSpotLight ? @SharksRadar19h
This was definitely a mistake on our part. In attempting to listen in on the interview we inadvertently put ourselves in the same camera shot as one of the all time “hunkiest” Sharks players. It is truly humbling to look back at the footage. Is it wrong for me to say hunkiest? Is that a word?
Was the Dallas game when you had Laryngitis the hardest game you ever had to call? @Bay_Area_Sports12 Jan
It was definitely right up there. I woke up that morning with little to no voice. The doctor gave me a steroid shot and antibiotics and told me not to speak until game-time when I absolutely had to. It was a struggle to get the words out and probably more painful to listen to. The hardest game I ever had to call was May 17, 2006. It was game 6 of the playoff series between the Sharks and the Edmonton Oilers. I was sick that night too and losing my voice. But what made it especially tough is that when the Sharks lost the game 2-0 and lost the series 4-2, I knew that Drew would be revealing on our post game segment that he was leaving the Sharks broadcast crew for Hockey Night in Canada the next season. It was an emotional night and there were tears at the end of it. But in the end Drew realized the terrible mistake he had made and he came back!
Would you rather trade "hair" with Drew or "teeth" with @Burnzie88 ? :) @MissStephF12 Jan
Neither. I would rather trade the ability to grow facial hair with Joe Thornton. I think it would be a ground breaking Shark Byte segment to do a time lapsed photography feature of Thornton’s face. The man can grow a beard in between periods.
Keep those Tweets coming @sharkvoice.
I’m Randy Hahn
With the San Jose Sharks in our nation’s capital, it’s always interesting to hear the perspectives of the American citizens on the team’s roster, especially as they consider some free time after practice at the Verizon Center today.
Whether it’s Joe Pavelski’s special memories of visiting the Library of Congress and national archives, where he saw some historically significant items, or whether it’s Justin Braun’s anticipation of strolling to the Lincoln Memorial, it’s impossible not to feel a sense of patriotism and good fortune that we are either Americans or simply living and working in the United States. It is, indeed, our good fortune to be doing so.
But as we reflect by the Reflecting Pool, it’s also important to note that the Verizon Center is a memorable place for a couple of Sharks who played the biggest game of their lives there before they ever thought seriously about donning an NHL uniform.
It was April 11, 2009, and the NCAA Frozen Four hockey tournament was being played at the Verizon Center. In the national semi-finals two nights earlier, Boston University defeated Vermont, 5-4, and Miami University defeated Bemidji State, 4-1, to earn the way to the championship game. B.U. trailed, 4-3, in its game, before scoring two goals in 1:13 midway through the third period to advance, with the winning goal scored by future Nashville Predator Colin Wilson. Miami had rolled through Bemidji on the strength of a two-goal, one-assist performance by future San Jose Shark Tommy Wingels.
But now, it was for all the marbles. 18,512 college hockey fans jammed into the Verizon Center, hoping for a night to really remember, and what they got was an incredible game with a crazy ending that provided some evidence why holding a two-goal lead is “the worst lead in hockey.”
After the teams exchanged goals in the first two periods, Wingels put Miami in front, 2-1, with 7:29 to play. Trent Vogelhuber made it a 3-1 Miami lead with 4:08 to play, and with one minute to play, it appeared as if Miami’s longstanding quest to win the national championship was about to happen.
But on the other side of the ice, Boston University was refusing to fold its hand, and with one minute to play, they had goaltender Kieran Millan on the bench for an extra attacker. It was time for the crazy ending.
Current Anaheim Ducks center Nick Bonino, who had been drafted 173rd overall by the Sharks in 2007, was on the ice, and along with Brandon Yip, now playing in the Phoenix organization, got the puck to Zach Cohen for an extra-attacker goal with 59 seconds to play. Miami still led, 3-2.
Forty-three seconds later, with the extra attacker on the ice, Bonino tied the game, 3-3, on passes from Matt Gilroy, currently playing in Florida, and Chris Higgins, who is currently playing in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Instead of a handshake at the end of regulation, the national championship game was headed to overtime.
In overtime, Boston University would complete its incredible comeback, with Colby Cohen notching the winning goal at the 11:47 mark. The assists went to Kevin Shattenkirk, now playing for the St. Louis Blues, and Chris Connolly, currently splitting time between Tampere, Finland and Iserlohn, Germany. Boston University had won its fifth national championship, and the NCAA championship game had gone into overtime for the 13th time in history.
Fast-forward a couple of years later to February 13, 2012, back at the Verizon Center in Washington, DC. The Sharks were playing the Capitals in NHL action on this occasion, and Wingels was back in the building for the first time.
As it turned out, the hotel rooming list had Wingels coincidentally put together with John McCarthy. As many know, McCarthy was a co-captain of the winning team from Commonwealth Avenue, and was named “Unsung Hero” of that particular Boston University team by his school.
Well, in the game played on that night, the roommates and teammates were on the winning side. On the strength of a two-goal, two-assist performance by U.S. Olympian Joe Pavelski, and two more goals from Canadian Olympian Patrick Marleau, not to mention three assists from Joe Thornton, and 39 saves from Thomas Greiss, the Sharks took a 5-1 lead with 12:57 to play, and held on to win, 5-3. Alex Ovechkin played 26:45 that game, and was held off the scoresheet by the Sharks netminder, despite putting 6 shots on goal.
Fast-forward to the present. The Sharks are back at Verizon Center for practice, and I’m reading an account of an exciting college game played at Madison Square Garden this past weekend between Yale and Harvard in front of 15,524 spectators and won by Yale, 5-1. It reminded me of the old ECAC Holiday Hockey Festival, also played at Madison Square Garden and featuring my alma mater, St. Lawrence University, in many of the games played between 1962 and 1977.
I have three unrelated thoughts:
- The Sharks are looking for inspiring performances on this road trip, and here, at the site of one of their most memorable moments, it would be really great to see Wingels and McCarthy pick up some points in a Sharks victory against the Capitals on Tuesday.
- Given that Hockey East plays its championship tournament at TD Garden, I’d like to see if the rival ECAC could somehow schedule its championship tournament at Madison Square Garden. Now, there’s nothing wrong with Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid, where the tournament is currently held and where my alma mater played in another NCAA championship game that went to overtime. But to have TD Garden host one Eastern college championship and Madison Square Garden the other would be great for the sport, excellent cooperation with the NHL arenas, and an enhancement of the Eastern league rivalries.
- Given the appearance of the NCAA Frozen Four in NHL buildings, including Washington, wouldn’t it be fantastic to see it come to SAP Center at San Jose? Over the years, there has been definite interest, but so far, it hasn’t happened. Attention, NCAA: it would be a great success in Silicon Valley if it came to pass.
Now, it’s back to the Reflecting Pool to reflect some more, as Tuesday’s game awaits. I’m Dan Rusanowsky, for sjsharks.com.
Twenty years ago was the day that started the biggest single season turnaround in NHL History. Here's a quick overview of what and how it happened!
January 12, 1994
If anyone had asked a Sharks fan on that day if the Sharks were going to make the playoffs, let alone beat Detroit in a seven game series and take Toronto to a seven game series they would have:
- Literally spilt their stomach from laughing so hard
- Fallen off the rocking horse multiple times
- Bet the farm, and the neighbors farm, that it wouldn't happen
- Said if that happens there should be a parade in downtown San Jose
Correct answer is D.
Here is why anyone and everyone outside of the players and coaching staff thought D would never have been the answer.
- Sharks record on October 25, 1993, nine games into the 84 game regular season was 0-8-1.
- Sharks record on January 12, 1994, 43 games into the season was 12-21-10.
- In the previous 14 games prior to January 12, the Sharks went 1-8-5
- Including a 10-3 loss to Detroit at home on January 6
- And In the next game, on January 11, it was a 2-2 tie at home to Los Angeles in a game where the Kings outshot the Sharks 39 to 10. After the game, Head Coach Kevin Constantine, who seldom lit into the team after a game, went absolutely crazy, yelled and screamed and basically called the way we played an embarrassment.
So it's game day on January 12, 1994 as the Sharks play the Mighty Ducks in Anaheim. It’s year three of the San Jose Sharks and year one in downtown San Jose where the team played in an arena known as The Shark Tank.
Despite the odds against them, on the evening of January 12, 1994, the San Jose Sharks beat the Mighty Ducks at the “The Pond” by a score of 5-2.
This was the first win in a 9-3-1 run over the next 13 games as the teething Sharks started to get some bite to their game.
The last three games of the 13 were, in a scheduling quirk, all against the very good Chicago Blackhawks. Back then the NHL played 84 regular season games with every team playing 2 neutral site games. One of the neutral site games was in Sacramento against Chicago.
February 8, 1994 - @ Sacramento, Sharks W 4-3
February 11, 1994 – @ San Jose, Sharks W 4-3
February 13, 1994 - @ San Jose, Sharks W 1-0
The 1-0 win was a classic in many ways but especially because of how it ended. With less two minutes left in a scoreless game, Sharks defenseman Sandis Ozolinsh was doing his typical roaming in the offensive zone which drove the coaches crazy when Kevin Constantine yelled from the bench; “No Sandis, No Sandis, Great play Sandis” as he found a loose puck in the mid-slot and fired it past a sliding Ed Belfour to secure the Sharks 3rd consecutive win against a very good Blackhawks team.
Drew Remenda can tell the story better than anyone because he was an assistant coach and watched the video over and over again with the coaches … in disbelief!
Randy Hahn and Dan Rusanowsky have their versions and memories of that three game set against Chicago and the entire season as a whole, as does Wayne Thomas who was also an assistant at the time.
So on January 12, 1994 the Sharks were 12-21-10 after 43 games. The team would finish the final 41 games going 21-14-6 to finish in 8th place in the Western Conference with a record of 33-35-16.
So the Sharks went from:
0-8-1 on Oct 25, 2013, to
12-21-10 on Jan 12, 2014, to
33-35-16 on Apr 14, 1994
It was a unique experience, a unique team where there were no ego’s, everyone played for each other, respected each other and did what it took to win. The coaching staff was as prepared as any staff in the league as they put in more hours than anyone could imagine. It was, ‘a magical season’.
From 0-8-1 to making the playoffs, no way we could be Detroit, right?
So January 12, 1994 stands as the day that really started the biggest single season turnaround in NHL history. No one knew it was possible, well, except the players and coaches because you can’t accomplish that type of turnaround if you don’t believe! It takes “character and chemistry”, two characteristics that ’94 had an abundance of.
From there …
History Never Says Never!
A Change of Heart
In 1998, the Olympics welcomed NHL players with open arms. Prior to ’98 Olympic, hockey was considered an ‘amateur’ game composed of college, senior and communist (supposed non-pro) players. The prospect of exposing the sporting world to the very best hockey players appeared to be a logical way to ‘grow the game’ in general and improve the standing of the NHL in particular.
What was the price? The NHL agreed to shut down the league for almost three weeks and ‘lend’ their players to the various national teams. The Olympics would get the benefit of a major, team sport involving the best in the business. In ’98 it seemed to be a fair cost for all involved.
Nagano, Japan presented the games flawlessly.
The US and Canadian teams failed to win a medal which defeated one of the major goals of the NHL. The Czechs won Gold, Russia took the Silver and Finland won Bronze. The greatest players of the era gave the games everything they had. Ratings were not what the NHL had hoped for. The dramatic difference in times zones was thought to be the reason.
In 2002, Salt Lake City hosted the Winter Games. A North American venue in the Mountain time zone gave the NHL high hopes. The Canadian team played an inspired hockey on their way to the Gold Medal. Team USA captured the Silver and Bronze went to the Russians.
2006 saw the Winter Games staged in Turin, Italy. Sweden, Finland and the Czechs won Gold, Silver and Bronze. Canada and the US failed to medal and many saw it as another missed opportunity.
Vancouver hosted in 2010 and Canada showed the world they know how to throw a party. But at the end of the day the NHL still failed to get the result they were hoping for. The games did not draw massive viewership. The games failed to drive interest in non-traditional US markets. The buzz the games brought was enjoyed mostly by long-time hockey fans; the same folks who watch attend and buy merchandise during the NHL season.
But after 16 years and 5 Olympic games (including Sochi, Russia next month), I feel it’s time to move on. It’s not a win-win for the NHL. What other industry would shut down their business and ‘give’ away their product without any guarantees? Not only that, there is a very real concern to club management that their high-priced assets (players) could be hurt which would damage their business significantly.
Recently more and more voices are questioning the NHL’s future participation. Another point that can be made is that the NHL’s condensed schedule to accommodate three weeks off in February hurts players, the competition and the quality of the games played.
For me there are two solutions to the problems of shutting down the NHL.
1. Move Ice Hockey to the summer games. It may be counter intuitive but basketball is featured in the summer games.
2. Resurrect the World Cup of Hockey which has been shelved since the league began playing in the Olympics. In the past the World Cup was staged in September to coincide in part with training camp. Games were played entirely in North America…in Canada and the US. In fact San Jose hosted a World Cup game back in 1996.
Rather than trying to get the world to ‘discover hockey’, let’s use the league, its venues and its players to offer the best hockey possible without shutting down the NHL during a key part of the season.
It’s time to just walk away from the Olympics. Give Olympic hockey to the college and amateurs players. Let the NHLers earn their money battling for the Stanley Cup and a revived World Cup.