Fredericton — NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced recently that the National Hockey League will not allow their players to participate in the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic games in South Korea, and that news has upset many hockey fans.
Though it is not the first time NHL players have been denied the opportunity to represent their country, the decision has still been met with a fair bit of controversy. The last time this happened was in 1994, and that year Canada finished second place, earning a bittersweet silver medal.
Had the NHL allowed their players to participate in the Olympic games, it would require a 17-day break from regular NHL hockey in February 2018, a time when the National Football League season would be recently completed and the Minor League Baseball season yet to commence. From a business standpoint, not allowing NHL participation is the obvious choice, but not everyone is looking at the issue from a business point of view.
“It’s supposed to be the best of the best,” said local self-proclaimed hockey expert Sam Kerr, whose title came into question after he admitted to being a Leafs fan. “Canada is the greatest hockey country in the world, and I believe it’s our right to be able to demonstrate that by sending the best players in the world.”
Instead of a roster featuring the likes of Sidney Crosby, Patrice Bergeron, and Connor McDavid, Canadian hockey fans will instead have to cheer on a team composed largely of nobodies. The players will be taken from Russia’s Kontinental League, the American Hockey League, as well as other overseas pro leagues. Despite this, some people are now beginning to think that that leaves a window open for local talent.
“Midget Rec was the greatest two years of my career,” 24-year-old Frederictonian Blake Lavigne told The Manatee. “I scored like eight or nine times at least that year. I was pretty much on fire. This might be my shot.”
Lavigne now plays in a beer-league style pick-up game at the Lady Beaverbrook rink on Wednesday nights. “It’s $10 a week, and everyone is out of shape,” explained Lavigne. “We throw sticks in the middle to decide teams and chug Alpine on the bench. I’ll be drinking Moose Light this week, though. Got to stay sharp, you know? I heard there might be scouts there.”
When we asked the LBR’s Zamboni driver, who watches every game, what he thought of the players’ chances of making Team Canada, he laughed and said: “Blake, isn’t he the bearded guy who drinks himself to sleep on the bench every week? I probably won’t be betting on Canada next year.”