Now that the National Hockey League lockout is over, one of the next hotly contested debates around the game of hockey will be if the NHL will or will not allow its players to play at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi.
Jesse Spector of the Sporting News wrote on Sunday that the National Hockey League needs to take part at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi for many reasons. First, the NHL players will get significant exposure. Second, if the NHL decides not to go to Sochi, they will significantly damage their relationship with the players.
Spector's second argument has more merit than the first.
Don't forget, not many games will be seen on the NBC main network live because of the time difference. Games will probably instead be on CNBC, MSNBC or the NBC Sports Network south of the border. And don't forget, the NBC Sports Network will already be bringing many hockey games in the NHL throughout the 2013-14 season. However, don't be surprised that NBC will strongly support the NHL players attending the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi because their Olympic hockey television ratings will be horrible if the pros don't go. It is for this reason, that NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman will probably allow the pros to play.
As for Spector's second argument, the NHL will lose the respect of many Russians, who have already stated it is very important for them to play at the first Olympic Winter Games in their home country. The 2010 Olympic Winter Games were very important for many Canadians with them being in Vancouver, and the NHL must realize the equal importance that the 2014 Olympic Winter Games would have on Russian players.