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Sports by Bruce Penton
Wouldn’t most avid hockey fans in North America be more than willing to accept a two-week closure of the National Hockey League season if the tradeoff was a gold medal game in the Winter Olympics between, say, Canada and Russia?
NHL president Gary Bettman doesn’t agree. In fact, he announced last week the NHL and its owners have officially decided to not allow its players to take part in the 2018 Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Bettman offered a variety of reasons: potential injuries to star players; having to suspend the season for 17 days; and jamming the rest of the 82-game schedule into what’s left of the winter.
Until the NHL’s official announcement, most observers thought the NHL was simply using the debate about participation as a bargaining chip to use against the NHL Players’ Association. The players had indicated enthusiasm — the stars loving the spotlight the Olympics bring; the secondary players not minding the idea of a two-week mid-winter vacation — but Bettman said the owners felt the Olympics were more pain than gain.
In making the no-go announcement, Bettman said polling done by the league said more than 70 per cent of U.S. fans didn’t want the schedule interrupted for 17 days; about 53 per cent of Canadian fans said the same (according to the NHL).
Hard to believe, because Canadian fans remember Sidney Crosby’s ‘golden goal’ in overtime against the U.S. in Vancouver in 2010 with the same fondness that oldtimers remember the Paul Henderson goal vs. Russia in 1972. They remember Canada’s 3-0 victory over Sweden in the gold medal game in Sochi, Russia in 2014. Hockey at its best; with the best playing the best.
“Building ice hockey’s profile in Asia is one of the top mandates of my current presidential term,” IIHF president Rene Fasel told Pierre Lebrun of “There is a rising interest in the sport within Korea, and we would miss a huge opportunity to grow the game if we didn’t have a best-on-best showcase in this country.”
Alex Ovechkin of Washington has loudly proclaimed he’s suiting up for Russia in South Korea, with or without his team’s blessing. We’ll see about that. It will be a crying shame for Canada to send a team of amateurs or second-rate pros to Pyeongchang to wear the maple leaf while the NHL players stay home, ostensibly to have the owners confirm their power over the players and to count their money.
• Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald: “After being snubbed, Terrell Owens bought himself a jacket with the words ‘Hall of Fame’ on it. I picture Pete Rose: ‘Can I get the name of the company that made that?’
• Conan O’Brien of TBS, on the recent L.A. Marathon. “Actually there wasn’t supposed to be a marathon — people on the 405 freeway just gave up and got out of their cars.”
• Cubs president Theo Epstein, to, after Fortune magazine anointed him No. 1 in its ‘world’s greatest leader’ rankings: “Um, I can’t even get my dog to stop peeing in the house.”
• Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle, on the Oakland A’s penchant for trading talented and popular players: “Consumer watchdogs warn A’s fans not to fall in love with those food trucks at the Coliseum this season. If the Jamaican taco truck becomes wildly popular, the A’s are sure to trade it for a fried-whale-blubber-on-a-stick truck.’”
• RJ Currie of “NBA Commissioner Adam Silver called it ‘an extremely significant issue’ that NBA teams rest the stars people want to see. ‘Nothing to worry about here,’ said the Brooklyn Nets.”
• Comedy writer Alex Kaseberg: “Kentucky lost to North Carolina 75-73 on a buzzer beater. People in Kentucky have not been this depressed since they made it illegal to bring your sister to the prom.”
• Janice Hough of “The Raiders sent out an email today to season ticket holders offering to let them put down a deposit on tickets in Las Vegas. This is sort of like your significant other telling you he/she is leaving you for someone else as soon as they get their home built, but she’d love to have you come to the housewarming party.”
• Stephen Colbert of CBS Late Show fame: “Today we learned that Donald Trump is violating another norm because he won’t throw out the first pitch at the Washington Nationals’ opening day. I don’t know why. Maybe he’s worried his hands are too small to palm a baseball.”
• Conan O’Brien of TBS: “President Trump has turned down a chance to throw out the first pitch on opening day for the Washington Nationals. However, Trump said he’ll reconsider if he can also throw out all the players from other countries.”
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