February 20, 2006

Said it before, now someone agrees.: Finally someone agrees that the pros should be yanked from the Olympics. Unfortunately, nobody will do anything about it. Perhaps the NHL should pay attention, their fans would be happier.

posted by mrhockey to hockey at 01:25 PM - 41 comments

Excellent post, mrhockey (great name, by the way). I've never agreed with pros being allowed to compete in the Olympics. It kinda takes away from the whole Spirit of the Games, doesn't it? Let the kids play! The pros get paid to do what they love, amateurs do it with their heart.

posted by wingnut4life at 01:39 PM on February 20, 2006

Why shouldnt the pros be allowed in the Olympics I mean its suppose to be the best world wide players thats like disqualifying the top 40 assists and goal scorers from the All-Star game and its not like there all from one country

posted by houston9388 at 01:42 PM on February 20, 2006

Dan Wetzel has a good point, but he could have made it without all the Bettman bashing. Gary didn't pick the USA team, he simply allowed whoever does pick the teams to be able to use NHL players. Nobody said they have to use them.

posted by njsk8r20 at 01:43 PM on February 20, 2006

You know i used to agree that only the amateurs should compete in the team events until I realized that 99% of the athletes in the Olympics are no where near amateur. With sponsorship and the countries olympic committee training centers and such they are nearly all really being paid to compete.

posted by scottypup at 01:45 PM on February 20, 2006

True true scottypup, our athletes will turn pro and all the other countries top athletes will be forced to stay at an amature status. Was not this the argument that brought on the original Dream Team?

posted by chucodimebag at 02:01 PM on February 20, 2006

Unfortunately, nobody will do anything about it. Who exactly should be doing something about this? Those Do-Nothings in Washington!? LOL!@1

posted by yerfatma at 02:18 PM on February 20, 2006

This guy is misguided. He seems to think that Team USA is indicative of the rest of the world. Sure, Latvia doesn't have many NHL players. But look at Sweden, Canada, Finland, Russia, etc. They are in the same boat as the US Team, somehow they manage to win games. (Well, Canada, not so much.) This dude's logic seems to be: Team USA sucks, so no NHL player should be allowed to play in the Olympics.

posted by fabulon7 at 02:24 PM on February 20, 2006

Actually, fabulon, I think it's more like, "Gary Bettman sucks, so no NHL player should be allowed to play in the Olympics." Here's another article that is in the same vein, but has a lower blood pressure: you read me now!

posted by NoMich at 02:32 PM on February 20, 2006

The NHL said that after the2010 Olympics, they will no longer take part in it.

posted by steelers101 at 02:34 PM on February 20, 2006

Naw, I like the idea that the NHL, IOC and IIHF all seem to believe in a concept called "The Game" that is bigger than simply their organization or league. The Olympics is a time where we see passion and pride from the pros in a unique tourney format that certainly lends itself to upsets and, at least, entertaining hockey. And to reiterate what others have said: There is no such thing as amateurs in the sense of the old definition. Most Olympians are hardly rich, but most are also paid to train and provided with the necessities. For instance - prior to the inclusion of the NHL players (indeed prior to the old Soviet players coming to the NHL) the USSR team was technically amateur, but it was clearly a pro-team - that was their job, supported at length by the government. In some ways, adding the pros just levelled the playing field.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 02:40 PM on February 20, 2006

I agree with you Weedy. I was not just talking about the USA. Most countries support their athletes with a training center and such. Especially back in the Soviet Bloc days I always felt like we were getting the short end of it trying to make our athletes be "amateur". I pretty much think almost all athletes are supported today.

posted by scottypup at 02:57 PM on February 20, 2006

The ultimate reason that pros began to be allowed to participate in the Olympics was that it was too hard to distinguish between pros and amateurs. Heck, baseball is losing its Oltympic status because MLB won't send its pros.

posted by spira at 03:04 PM on February 20, 2006

By disallowing NHL players in the Olympics, it'll do nothing but decimate the talent level of two major hockey powers (Canada, USA), significantly harm a few more (Sweden, Finland, Czech, Russia) and handicap another (Slovakia). However, the lower level tier hockey nations won't be affected at all as most of their players are from European leagues (which will make their own decisions). So it looks like more of a way for Switzerland, Germany, Belarus, Ukraine, UK, Japan and other "tier two" nations to even the score. Why not just insist the "tier one" nations wear heavy weights on their legs and sticks? Either you allow ANYONE, or you ban ALL pros from the hockey tournament. Specifically blocking one league (the premier one at that) is ridiculous. Hey, if the USA wants to unilaterally send a bunch of players who didn't get drafted into the NHL, go right ahead. You won't see a "Miracle On Ice" affect anymore since there isn't just ONE hockey superpower any more (USSR). There are at least 6 that can put up a fight.

posted by grum@work at 03:07 PM on February 20, 2006

Why not just insist the "tier one" nations wear heavy weights on their legs and sticks? That sounds kind of familiar...in a hockey meets Vonnegut kind of way.

posted by chris2sy at 03:30 PM on February 20, 2006

I'm happy you guys rebutted the linked article so well. I wanted to, but my blood was a little too boiling. Whoever is not enjoying the Olympic tournament is either: a. not a true hockey fan b. an all-out homer supporting an underperforming country c. all of the above The only problem with the current formula is that the quarter finalists are pretty much a given, and the preliminary round basically server as a warmup for the more powerful countries. (Which is actually a boon for the jet-lagged NHLers.) But even that problem will go away eventually. It used to be that two or three "hockey powers" got an easy quarter final match, and this time around it seems all quarter final games will be hotly contested. Give it 4 or 8 more years, and the Germans will fight the Czechs for the last place in the medal round, while Russia will have fallen victim to Ukraine's perfect record.

posted by qbert72 at 04:00 PM on February 20, 2006

what is "hockey"?

posted by brandt at 04:06 PM on February 20, 2006

I am among those who thinks the Olympics should showcase the best athletes each country has to offer. In most cases, those people will be professionals. While I am certainly cheering on the U.S. team, I think a lot of this anti-professional sentiment is merely because the U.S. team isn't winning. Just because we're losing doesn't mean it's a bad idea. Not saying that's the case with everyone, but I think it clouds a lot of judgments. Despite the ramblings of some of the media big-mouths, the NHL will survive this. On the other hand, switching to a dedicated all-amateur team would do damage to the college hockey ranks, a sport which is starting to get a foothold outside of the frozen north. I'd rather keep the amateur stars in the college ranks, but then again, I'm a bit biased on that one, being a University of Minnesota alumnus. ;-) I say let the best players play at the Olympics, and see who prevails. If we lose, send a better team next time.

posted by TheQatarian at 04:12 PM on February 20, 2006

Well I am a new hockey fan so I have nothing to base my feelings on and my opinion may not count but I am enjoying the tournament. I look forward to all the future games.

posted by skydivemom at 04:47 PM on February 20, 2006

The gutsy move for the U. S. Olympic Committee would be to unilaterally withdraw from the NHL's meddling and make our national hockey team a real team, put together with training camps and players bonding for months. We'll send college kids, minor leaguers, old guys and the best of the rest, even if no one else will. WTF? Yeah, all those college kids and minor leaguers and old guys with full-time jobs are just sitting around on their asses waiting to be invited to a hockey tournament. Sorry, guys, can you take six months off of school and work to come play hockey? And what minor leaguers aren't professionals? Even if the long-term training camp idea was a realistic one, you'd still be getting down to some fairly serious hockey dregs if you stuck to this standard. Does this guy really think that sending a beer league team to the Olympics will increase interest in hockey? News flash: Americans don't like being bad at things, and the national representatives getting blown out five times every four years will do more harm to the sports' following than any sort of NHL participation.

posted by DrJohnEvans at 04:56 PM on February 20, 2006

Avery Brundage, where are you when we need you?

posted by westcoast at 05:12 PM on February 20, 2006

What? yank the Pro's from the American Team... Over my dead body! This has been an excellent Olympic Tourney. Just because Team USA has lost a few round robin games is certainly no reason to pull the pro's. Hell Team Canada's put up 2 losses also, WTF it's the round robins... 1/4 finals start Weds. This Tourney is going to get even better if that's possible, I love the "lose and go home" finality of this format. Don't be surprised when the American Team wins a game or 2. Anyway enough of that rant. I met skydivemom and she had never seen a Hockey Game. Now how in the hell do you grow up in N. Michigan and know nothing about hockey, it's beyond me. So, I tell her if she's gonna hang with me it's learn hockey or hit the road. She learned the game then stabbed me in the back by becoming a Red Wings fan and further corrupted our son. He loves hockey and the Red Wings. It breaks my heart to see them both hanging out in their Red Wing Hoodies... I've created a monster. Serves me right.

posted by skydivedad at 05:14 PM on February 20, 2006

The amateurism vs. professional argument is a 19th century conceit that was finally buried in the late 20th century. I want to see the best. These Olympic hockey games are terrific, and with no timeouts makes for easy viewing. I don't lose any sleep because an American cynic is whinging, what else is new?

posted by the red terror at 05:17 PM on February 20, 2006

Concerning the "amateurism vs. professionalism" argument: if I'm not mistaken, Olympic athletes were normally affluent and basically wanted to keep out athletes whose professions were similar to the sports they would participate in. i.e. sailors and/or dockworkers entered in rowing events. I saw it on the History channel. TV good

posted by THX-1138 at 05:55 PM on February 20, 2006

99% of the athletes in the Olympics are no where near amateur Gee, thanks, scottypup, but I'm not that good a hockey player. Really. I'd just like to add that the Latvians, Germans, Swiss, etc. are almost all professional hockey players, too. They just don't play in the NHL.

posted by Amateur at 07:15 PM on February 20, 2006

As I explained to someone in a similar discussion, "It's not like the Kazakhs are farmers in a pond-hockey league. They're professional hockey players." So if non-NHL countries send their Elite League players, we're supposed to counter with college kids?

posted by swerve at 07:25 PM on February 20, 2006

My feelings on this issue have been made known in recent weeks in earlier topics. Maybe it is 19th Century, maybe it is pining for (clouded) memories of earlier times; but Samaranch did the Games a disservice by opening the ranks to "professionals", those who receive pay for participating in the sport the are competing in. That is not to say that an NFL running back should not be able to push a 4-man bobsleigh, or that (ala Jim Thorpe) compete individually in a sport which he/she has not been paid to compete in. The question of what constitutes a professional is a difficult one, but it IS definable. And support for the athletes, in stipends, training costs, housing, etc. does not disqualify one as an amateur, just ask the NCAA (and don't go off on how the footballers and basketballers are just glorified pros, there are plenty of TRUE student-athletes who also receive scholarships). The IOC can define amaterism, and should do so, and refuse to allow participation to anyone who does not meet its definition.

posted by elovrich at 07:56 PM on February 20, 2006

The question of what constitutes a professional is a difficult one, but it IS definable. It might be now, but it sure wasn't for about 50 years. There is a reason why Canada didn't send a hockey team to any "amateur" competitions (world championships or Olympics) for 11 years: USSR would send their version of "amateur", and it wasn't fair. That said, if you revert to pure amateurism now, sports such as basketball, hockey, soccer, tennis and track & field will turn into a "best of the worst" instead of "best of the best". If there is a professional version of the sport available, it is doubtful that the best of the sport will shun the money for 4 years to compete in the Olympics.

posted by grum@work at 08:05 PM on February 20, 2006

It might be now, but it sure wasn't for about 50 years. There is a reason why Canada didn't send a hockey team to any "amateur" competitions (world championships or Olympics) for 11 years: USSR would send their version of "amateur", and it wasn't fair. grum, there was a reason why the USSR got away with sending those kind of amateurs, and it was called the Iron Curtain. Not too many nations can get away with what they did nowadays. That being said, I don't think that there will ever truly be another "purely amateur" Olympics. Too many countries are trying anything and everything to get a leg up on the competition. In my own personal opinion, I look at it as one big Perfect Circle. Look at any sport in the Olympics, and you'll see a current dominant country or countries. Given time, the other countries will catch up, and then they'll be dominant for a few years. Then, new things will be brought into play to get that leg up again. It's just a cycle that will always be in play. Again, this is just my opinion...

posted by wingnut4life at 08:45 PM on February 20, 2006

It seems to me that it doesn't matter who you send to the Olympics, whether they are "amateur" or "professional" by definition. If the athletes aren't ready to leave their egos at home, work hard and make a TEAM out themselves, they're certainly capable of losing games. Even with teams full of NHLers, no team is a "sure thing". Canada and the U.S. have proven that.

posted by pullthegoalie at 08:49 PM on February 20, 2006

I'll gladly take NHLers in the Olympics so long as that is pretty much the only game in town for getting the best players in the world representing their country in a competition. Once the World Cup really and truly earns the name (in being a regular competition like FIFA's World Cup) and becomes the premier outlet for top level national competitions (the annual IIHF world championships don't cut it when significant chunks of the teams of most powerhouse nations are tied up in the NHL playoffs) then the NHLers can pass on the Olympics. I was disappointed when the Canada Cup/World Cup got waylaid through most of the last 16 or so years. I want a regular fix of the top players playing against each other for their national teams.

posted by gspm at 09:56 PM on February 20, 2006

Who WANTS a so-called "purely amateur" games? It's not serious. The Olympics is the number one sporting brand in the world, and a huge money making machine and you guys want it to be cute and cuddly? Screw that. The Olympics are about competition at the highest level in each sport, and that's exactly as it should be and in line with the Olympic values. The fact that these values were trumped by elitist views of "gentlemen only" for years and then stymied by the rise of the Eastern Bloc is not an argument for a return to phony amateurism and elitism, they're an argument against it. Furthermore, Men's Ice Hockey is the best argument I have seen for professionalism in the Olympics, with Men's Basketball right behind. In the era of the Dream Team the basketball tournament was a joke - but it's not a joke anymore, and any American who doesn't get that hasn't been paying attention. Hockey has always been more balanced than that, but even in just 4 years the pool has become much stronger and now you have NHL players from each of the countries and clearly quite high level elite league in Europe as well. At this rate, by the next Olympics in Vancouver we'll have a tournament in which any team in the draw could, on the day, beat any other, and the winner will be the team that is the most ON from the earliest date in the competition. What could be wrong with that?

posted by mikelbyl at 10:43 PM on February 20, 2006

If the Olympics switched back to only allowing amateurs, I am sure some countries would make sure their best players stayed amateurs. Just like the USSR did. We don't see it today because there's no need for it, not because the USSR died off.

posted by spira at 10:46 PM on February 20, 2006

I think that rather than amateur atheletes vs. professional, which is a dubious distinction, it could be better to make Olympic hockey an under-20 tournament. Of course, we already have the World Jrs (which is a great and competitive tourney without -- mostly -- any NHLers) and there's no way you could have both in the same year. Anyway, sticking with the original dumb article: Team USA isn't a national team. It isn't even a team. It is just a collection of guys. This is not something that should be representing our country. This isn't the best we can send here. Maybe, but the "collection of guys" representing Sweden and Slovakia had no problem beating the "team" of Latvia nor the "collection of guys" from the USA. If that's what you think the problem is, then you haven't been watching the game internationally.

posted by mkn at 12:04 AM on February 21, 2006

Too few of those posting here realize just what a 'team' is, hence, the lack of want for the pro exclusion. The original 'dream team' was in 1980 when the US beat the Soviet Union for Gold, and that was a bunch of college players. I didn't play with them because I was disallowed due to my 'pro status' (I played for a minor league team, and was paid).

posted by mrhockey at 07:13 AM on February 21, 2006

The NHL said that after the 2010 Olympics, they will no longer take part in it. This might turn out to be true; but currently all you can say is that there is no agreement between the NHL and the IIHF concerning NHL participation. The most recent agreement was only settled this past summer or fall. It does not extend past 2010.

posted by Amateur at 07:53 AM on February 21, 2006

Amateurism, as I said previously, was a 19th century conceit. So athletes and teams and federations throughout the 20th century found loopholes. In rugby, these athletes became known as "shamateurs." In Wales in the early 20th century when coal miners played amateur Rugby Union, the players were constantly being poached by northern English Rugby League (professional) teams, so the proud Welsh towns that found identity and pride with their amateur rugby clubs did what the Soviet Union used to do -- they rewarded star players with houses and cars and other assorted "gifts." Only a contrarian lawyer or a moron would presume those gifts weren't income, so the clubs and athletes engaged in a big Kabuki routine pretending is wasn't so --- no, no, no Guv, nobody getting paid even so much as a shilling, hon-est. When you restrict sports events to amateurs, that's what you inevitably get -- shamateurs -- i.e. so-called "amateur" athletes that accept "promotional" positions from sponsors like breweries and soft-drink corporations where the athlete's "job" was to shake hands at publicity events with bigwigs and politicians. That's what happened with amateur rugby players in France, South Africa and New Zealand -- these players were used & abused. And when, say, a team from NZ had to do a 2-month tour of the UK, players that were farmers were not only expected to play for free, they were also expected to pay some other worker to run his farm for the two months absence. In fact, the amateur rules were so restrictive that an athlete couldn't write a book and accept profits off the sales of those books without giving up his amateur status. No athletic sacrifice is worth financial ruin. Amateurism is a great ideal, but as a working policy in athletics it is a sham. The sham has been exposed for far too long, and I for one don't need 19th century rules dictating order in a 21st century reality. Besides, the IOC receives billions of dollars on the backs of these star athletes ---- surely the athletes themselves deserve their slice of the pie.

posted by the red terror at 04:17 PM on February 21, 2006

I am not saying that the athletes do not deserve a share of the pie. I am all for an athlete pursuing and getting endorsements deals of their own, provided a) the deal does not necessitate that the athlete peform in any particular event or to any ceratin standard and b) the sponshorship is not on the athletes person at any time immediately before during or after a competition except for manufacturers of equipment (you don't think ALL skiers just happen to hold their skis with the bases showing towards the camera do you?). Am I picking nits in differentiating between pay for performance and pay for endorsing? Perhaps, but I for one would rather see a "team" of athletes than a "gaggle" of all-stars. And lets face it, what sports are we truly speaking of in the Olympics? For the Winter Games it includes hockey and..... In the Summer Games it means basketball and....baseball and softball are going away, some of the sailing but that is about it.... And baseball was never really a problem since MLB continued to play during the games. What we are really taking about here then boils down to hockey and basketball and soccer when it comes online as a medal sport...

posted by elovrich at 07:38 PM on February 21, 2006

mrhockey: Too few of those posting here realize just what a 'team' is, hence, the lack of want for the pro exclusion. So you're saying that everybody would agree with you if only they weren't so ignorant? Interesting way to win an argument. I'm not really even sure what you (and the column you linked to) are arguing for. Is it just the exclusion of NHL players? I don't think that will really solve the "problem." The US would still try to assemble an "all-star" team of the best non-NHL players they could find (in the minor leagues and in Europe). How would they be any more a "team" than the current collection? Or are you arguing in favour of a "true" national team, like the US and Canadian women's teams, that play and practice together for months before the Olympics? If everybody plays by the same rules, then I am sure that would make a very exciting Olympic hockey tournament. But if NHL players are allowed, and the US chooses not to use them, then the question becomes: do you really think that the advantages of playing and practicing together would give that collection of players a chance at being competitive? Would it be able to overcome the differences in talent? Or are you arguing that it shouldn't matter, and that the "principle" of amateurism should be more important than winning, anyway?

posted by Amateur at 07:41 PM on February 21, 2006

"I am all for an athlete pursuing and getting endorsements deals of their own, provided..." Athletes need to concentrate on training, not banging on corporate office doors with a tin-cup in hand. Every minute wasted trying to acquire sponsorship is a minute wasted training to be the best athlete -- and nobody gets sponsorship in minutes, it can often take months-and-years. TIME AND ENERGY WASTED. That's why athletes need agents representing their best interests -- and agents cost money. You then slap all sorts of provisions onto these endorsement deals. The policy seems a little bit too fascist for my liking -- what else can you call a corporatist body that sows an anti-materialist ideology, expects sacrifice, exalts nationalism, and imposes economic control over the individual? This is the 21st century. Men are free. They are allowed to sell their labor and the fruits of their labor at fair market price. These athletes have an immense global audience and the IOC, NBC and their sponsors makes billions of dollars off the backs of the athletes labour.

posted by the red terror at 08:07 AM on February 22, 2006

There is another link column here that is advocating figure skating is not a sport, and the writer there uses similar arguments to these. While I am distressed by the Bettman-bashing as well, the biggest problem with returning to a non-professional Olympics is not anything more difficult than enforcement of the rules. We all know how well this works with an outfit like the IOC. It doesn't, it just plain does not. They choose to enforce rules for some and not for others. And yerfatma, I don't think you got the point at all if you are asking the question. The organization that COULD do something about this is not Congress, it's the NHL itself. They arbitrarily decide to let the pros off for two and a half weeks, with no reduction in pay, and the fans get a porking in their butts because the only coverage is the wholly inadequate NBC network, which also does a shitty job of covering the Saturday NHL games and hires hellish commentators and play-by-play announcers. The best thing would be if the fan could determine who gets the Olympics, then the press would not get away with changing the name of the host city to a washed-up Ford model from Turin, which is, was, and always will be foremost the home of the FIAT motor car company.

posted by mrhockey at 09:12 AM on February 22, 2006

Yay! We can post again! Too few of those posting here realize just what a 'team' is, hence, the lack of want for the pro exclusion. Dude, you're outnumbered, and all the minor-league experience in the world won't change that. As I said in my previous comment (and as Amateur said above), you're not going to be able to put together a cohesive team with a long-term training committment from any of the top tiers of hockey. The only levels at which you'd be able to do so are so low that the talent difference between them and the rest of the Olympic teams would negate any strengths from chemistry. I'm just not getting some of your argument. You don't like the television coverage, so therefore hockey should be amateurs-only?

posted by DrJohnEvans at 09:21 AM on February 22, 2006

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