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01/28/2014

The Stanley Cup will never catch the Olympics, but it has narrowed the gap

We are now just days away from the biggest disaster of 2014 - the start of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Hell hath no fury like the doom and gloom forecasts for an Olympics overseas.

Can't help it - love the Winter Olympics, and specifically the hockey tournament. This is the best hockey in the world. The Stanley Cup tournament is the best pro sports playoff in North America, but the two-week Olympic tournament featuring the world's best hockey players is hard to beat because of its infrequency, anticipation, and absurdly-concentrated amount of talent spread among a few rosters.

When the NHL allowed its players to play in the Olympics beginning in 1998, it immediately became the best hockey tournament. As long as the NHL players continue to participate in the Olympics, which is always up for debate, it will remain that way. It may not be good business for the NHL, but it's good for hockey.

A downside has been was that some hockey people felt impacted the many talented Europeans that played in the NHL.

1288466843053One of the louder, quietest, complaints from hockey players and hockey coaches - many of whom are Western Canadian - is that for years the Europeans placed a higher priority on winning the gold medal in the Olympics over the Stanley Cup trophy. That the Euro would sacrifice themselves in a way in international games more than he would for the Cup.

That is heresy in the NHL, especially to the many Canadians who drink the sport. And it is not entirely untrue.

This rap affected the way the Euro was often regarded "in the room", and whether he could wear the C on his sweater. It finally is changing.

"Yeah - maybe now the Cup is becoming bigger and bigger in Europe," Dallas Stars goalie and Team Finland member Kari Lehtonen told me. "Fans now have access to NHL games now in Europe in a way like they didn't before. People are growing up on NHL gmaes now on TV. It's much easier to follow, not just the NHL but the Finnish league and all international play. Now the NHL is bigger in Europe, too."

 

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