The consensus opinion among hockey fans and players is that the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic men’s ice hockey tournament won’t be as exciting without NHL players participating.
With powerhouse hockey nations like Canada, Sweden, the United States and others having to now look outside the NHL to build their rosters, it evens the playing field for smaller hockey nations like Latvia, Switzerland and Slovenia to name a few. All told, the 2018 tournament has the potential to be far more competitive than it has been at recent Games.
Team Canada general manager Sean Burke joined Prime Time Sports on Tuesday and spoke about the competitive balance and how it might actually benefit hockey fans.
“I think that what people forget sometimes is that hockey’s entertaining when it’s competitive,” Burke said. “You know, the world juniors isn’t the best players in the world—it’s just the best young players—but yet we all get glued to the TV. It’s competitive. There’s great games, there’s a lot of mistakes made, there’s goals, there’s leads that are blown, there’s all kinds of things that make it entertaining.”
Hockey Canada released its 26-player Karjala Cup roster this past Thursday and many names on that list will also end up representing Canada in South Korea.
Former NHLers Mason Raymond, Derek Roy, Wojtek Wolski, Simon Després,
Gilbert Brulé, Matt Frattin, Justin Peters and Ben Scrivens are perhaps the most recognizable players on the roster—a far cry from the 2014 gold medal-winning roster that featured Hart, Norris, Vezina, Selke, Art Ross and Conn Smythe Trophy winners.
Canada went unbeaten in Sochi but anyone who said it was the most entertaining hockey imaginable clearly hasn’t watched a lot of hockey. In fact, the most dominant team in the tournament only managed to score more than three goals in one game and it was when they played Austria.
“I didn’t think the last Olympics was very entertaining,” Burke explained. “So, I think this has the ability to be a much more entertaining Olympics. One that once people get through the talk of, ‘I don’t know the names of all these guys,’ I think when you just sit down and watch hockey it’ll be competitive, it’ll be extremely intense and I think it’ll be very entertaining.”