A difficult season on Long Island worsened Thursday when it was revealed New York Islanders star John Tavares had suffered a season-ending knee injury during Team Canada’s 2-1 men’s hockey quarterfinal victory over Latvia.
Islanders general manager Garth Snow is furious over Tavares’ MCL and meniscus tear in his left knee, Newsday’s Arthur Staple reports.
“It’s a joke. They want all the benefits from NHL players in Olympics and don’t want to pay when our best player gets hurt,” Snow told Stape, who tweeted the GM’s quotes. “It wouldn’t matter if we were 10 points up on a playoff spot or 10 points out. We lost our best player and he wasn’t playing for us.”
The Islanders’ 23-year-old captain is the NHL’s third-leading scorer with 66 points in 59 games. In his five-year NHL career Tavares has played in 350 of a possible 354 games. The struggling Islanders have a record of 22-30-8 and are reportedly shopping one of their most electrifying forwards, pending free agent Thomas Vanek.
Snow is the latest high-ranking NHL executive to take issue with NHL players’ participation in the tournament.
“I’m really having a hard time trying to figure out if I like the idea of the Olympics or not,” Columbus Blue Jackets president of hockey operations John Davidson told Sportsnet 590 The Fan last week. Davidson, too, worries about losing a player to injury. “If somebody grabbed me and said, ‘You have to make a decision right now on Korea, I’d say no.’ ”
Furious that his captain, Claude Giroux, was overlooked for Team Canada, Philadelphia Flyers owner Ed Snider sounded off earlier this month, saying he hated the Winter Games.
“The whole thing is ridiculous. I don’t care if it was in Philadelphia, I wouldn’t want to break up the league. I think it’s ridiculous to take three weeks off, or however long it is, in the middle of the season. It screws up everything,” Snider said. “How can anybody be happy breaking up their season? No other league does it, why should we? There’s no benefit to us whatsoever. If anything, I can only see negatives.”
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly has said there are “a lot of negatives” with the NHL’s Olympic participation, and the league is looking at bringing back the World Cup of Hockey and holding it during the NHL offseason as an alternative.
Tavares is the latest player from the league to get injured in Russia, perhaps giving NHL owners another reason to want to keep their players home from the 2018 Olympics.
The Florida Panthers sent just two players to Sochi, and both got hurt. Aleksander Barkov is expected to be out for about a month with a knee injury he sustained while playing for Finland. Tomas Kopecky is out indefinitely after getting elbowed in the head in a game for Slovakia.
Mats Zuccarello of the New York Rangers had a hand injury that ruled him out of Norway’s finale against Russia.
Detroit Red Wings and Team Sweden captain Henrik Zetterberg aggravated a preexisting back injury, which the Olympic team said was a herniated disk, after his Sochi Games opener and is now out indefinitely.
Watch: Islanders players, coach react to Tavares injury
(with files from AP)