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Olympics Opinion: Men’s Hockey

Team+United+States+of+America+%28gold%29+poses+after+defeating+Team+Canada+%28silver%29+3-2+in+the+Women%27s+Ice+Hockey+Gold+Medal+game+on+day+13+of+the+PyeongChang+2018+Winter+Olympic+Games+at+Kwandong+Hockey+Centre+on+February+22%2C+2018+in+Gangneung%2C+Republic+of+Korea.%0AGettyImages
Team United States of America (gold) poses after defeating Team Canada (silver) 3-2 in the Women's Ice Hockey Gold Medal game on day 13 of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Kwandong Hockey Centre on February 22, 2018 in Gangneung, Republic of Korea.
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Team United States of America (gold) poses after defeating Team Canada (silver) 3-2 in the Women's Ice Hockey Gold Medal game on day 13 of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Kwandong Hockey Centre on February 22, 2018 in Gangneung, Republic of Korea. GettyImages

Photo provided by: www.olympic.org

Photo provided by: www.olympic.org

Team United States of America (gold) poses after defeating Team Canada (silver) 3-2 in the Women's Ice Hockey Gold Medal game on day 13 of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Kwandong Hockey Centre on February 22, 2018 in Gangneung, Republic of Korea. GettyImages

Carson Cashion, Journalism 1 Reporter

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The date is February 25. Millions of TVs around America are tuned in to NBC to watch the U.S.A. Men’s Hockey Team. They are a young, fast, and charismatic group of athletes that have captivated the public eye for the past two weeks. As the game ends, the United States secures their gold medal victory, and America begins to party like it is 1980.

That story is a hypothetical. It could easily have been the storyline for this years’ Olympics, but it will not be. The story may never come to reality at all, at least not in the near future. The sole reason holding back that possibility is the National Hockey League, (NHL). They have recently decided that for the first time since 1998, players in the NHL will not be allowed to participate in the Olympics, due to alleged financial reasons. The decision has received mass criticism from players and fans alike. Unsurprisingly, I echo the same view. The NHL’s decision to forbid their players from playing in the Olympics is a national tragedy because it eliminates the possibility of the United States winning gold, and diminishes interest in the tournament.

The possibility of winning the gold medal in hockey is not something America should take lightly. America has only won gold twice, but this year America had a wide open opportunity to win. The crop of players from the States was a speedy, skilled bunch. In contrast, Russia (America’s traditional rival and roadblock keeping them from winning it all) does not have a strong team. America’s quality and Russia’s lack thereof rarely coincide. However, the NHL’s decision to keep it is players from the Olympics changes the course of the tournament. America is left with an inexperienced group of NHL wannabes, and Russia has an elite, youthful group of stars. Furthermore, Russia has their own hockey league, the “KHL”, and that league is home to plenty of experienced, elite players that Russia is allowed to use in the Olympics. Combining the usage of KHL players, and the absence of NHL players, and America is left with little hope to even get a glance at the gold medal.

Additionally, leaving NHL players on the sideline has taken its’ toll on the ratings. NBC Sports Network Chairman Mark Lazarus, has already spoken about the dip in ratings. “It is early in the men’s tournament and we have not seen the big games yet but we are off roughly in the high 20s or low 30s,” Lazarus said in an interview. “It has been affected…Listen, I think it is bad for hockey everywhere.” Obviously, when the best hockey players in America are forbidden from playing, ratings will drop accordingly. Not only that, but the Olympics are trying to compete with the plethora of other sports to watch right now, and putting out mediocre content just is not going to cut it.

The day is February 17. America has played their final game in the group stage, and it was not a pretty sight. The U.S. has just lost four to nothing, at the hands of the pesky Russians. America’s lack of experience, and all around skill-deficit was abundantly clear. The team just could not keep up with the Russians. The ratings for the game are poor; it matches well with the way Team U.S.A. played.

While the story mentioned at the beginning was a hypothetical, this one is for real. While Olympic defeat may be familiar for the red, white, and blue, knowing what might have been makes this loss sting even more. Meanwhile, the best players in the world sit at home, dreaming of kissing their gold medals, and bringing back Olympic triumph to American hockey.

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Olympics Opinion: Men’s Hockey