The grumblings over whether or not NHL players should participate in the Winter Olympic games have just gotten louder.
According to Arthur Staple of Newsday, New York Islanders star-captain John Tavares underwent an MRI on Thursday which revealed the Canadian forward has a torn MCL as a result of a collision with Latvian defenseman Arturs Kulda in Wednesday's quarterfinal victory over Latvia.
Tavares took a hit from Kulda in the second period, leaving the 20-year-old shaken up before struggling to reach his team’s bench. Tavares disappeared to the locker room and wouldn’t return for the final frame in which Shea Weber scored the deciding goal for Canada to advance to the men’s ice hockey semifinal.
He will miss the remainder of the Olympics as well as the latter half of the NHL season. He leaves the tournament without registering a point.
The loss of Tavares for Canada heading into Friday’s matchup against the Americans, with the winner advancing to the gold medal game, is merely a bump in the road thanks to the depth the Canadians have on their roster. For the Islanders, who currently occupy the last spot in the Metropolitan Division, the ability to overcome their captain’s absence will not be as easy.
In his fifth season with the Isles, Tavares leads the team with 24 goals and 44 assists for the team-high of 66 points. The Mississauga native has been the team's highest point producer since being drafted in 2009.
His appearance in the 2014 Sochi games was a first for Tavares, and possibly his last.
With injuries to the likes of Tavares and New York Rangers’ forward Mats Zuccarello (hand), there is no doubt that the league, players association and general managers will second guess shipping their players overseas once again.
In a report earlier this week from USA Today, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman believes that a decision on the future of NHL participation in the Olympics will be made over the next six months.
“It’s about consensus,” Bettman said according to Kevin Allen. “It’s about what makes sense to the organizing committee, the IOC, the IIHF, the NHLPA and the NHL.”
There have also been talks about resuming the World Cup competition with NHL participation.
“We see international competition on the horizon. It’s really just a question of what the format will be.”