Philadelphia Flyers owner Ed Snider is not often one to hold back with his comments and he certainly didn't when he addressed his frustration with the NHL's participation in the Olympics.
Via The Hockey News:
“I hate them. It's ridiculous, the whole thing is ridiculous,” Snider said. “I don't care if it is in Philadelphia, I wouldn't want to break up the league. I think it's ridiculous to take three weeks off…in the middle of the season. How can anybody be happy breaking up the season? No other league does it, why should we? There's no benefit to us whatsoever. If anything, I can only see negatives.”
Hate is a strong word, but Snider's frustration is palpable. He also railed against Team Canada for not picking Claude Giroux over Martin St. Louis, which may have got his blood boiling enough to make such strong statements.
"Anybody that thinks that Claude Giroux doesn't belong on the Canadian team, they don't know anything about hockey," Snider said. Strong words for Mr. Steve Yzerman and company.
As juicy as his Giroux comments were, the real kicker is what Snider said about NHL participation in the Olympics. The fact that these words come from Snider also carries weight. He's a longtime owner who is certainly influential and those complaints are probably not exclusive to him.
The 2018 Winter Olympics will be held in Peyongchang, South Korea, which means another event with unfavorable game times for North American TV and logistical difficulties. Sochi very much is a test for the future of NHL participation in the Olympics.
You may recall that the NHL didn't even make a final decision on allowing its players to play in the Olympics until late last summer. The NHL's relationship with the International Olympic Committee is very much in precarious position now.
To have one of the more powerful owners speak out in such black and white terms is not exactly going to breed a lot of confidence in the future participation of NHL players.
With all of the hype and buildup coming out of the 2010 games and heading into 2014, there seems to be an increased appetite from fans for international hockey. If the TV ratings and the NHL buzz builds coming out of Sochi, the league will certainly have to take that into consideration, but boy does it sound like it will be an uphill battle.
If the NHL decides not to participate, it will vastly change how the U.S. and Canada are able to build rosters. With no NHL or AHL players under NHL contracts available, the U.S. will have to turn back to American college and junior players like the old days more than likely.
However, the hockey landscape has vastly changed since the last amateur Olympics in 1994. There are stronger professional leagues in Europe that would be more than happy to release their players for Olympic competition, while the U.S. would basically have to send kids and American pros playing in Europe. It would be hard to build the buzz without the star power of NHL players of today.
The NHL also has an appetite to revive the World Cup of Hockey, which it held in 1996 and 2004 with varying levels of success. With the way fans are getting excited about international hockey, that gives the NHL a chance to monetize it on their own terms instead of getting pretty much nothing back from the IOC.
There are a lot of moving parts on a decision like this, but expect this debate to pick up again in a few years and expect a lot of wide-ranging opinions to be made public about it, too. And don't be surprised if many of the NHL owners feel the same way as Snider.