NHL owners are not the only ones griping about NHL participation in the Olympics. Add New York Islanders general manager Garth Snow to the mix of disgruntled executives following Wednesday’s news that his star player, John Tavares, suffered a season-ending knee injury during tournament play.
Snow aired his grievance against both the IIHF and IOC on Wednesday, bemoaning the loss of Tavares and the impact it will have on his Islanders fan base.
“Are the IIHF and IOC going to reimburse our season-ticket holders now? It’s a joke,” Snow told Newsday. “They want all the benefits from NHL players playing in the Olympics and don’t want to pay when our best player gets hurt.”
Now, Snow is not alone in his feelings here, but his comments are a bit vexing on a number of different fronts.
For one, Snow’s complaints ring a little hollow considering how many times he has disappointed the fan base with his unwillingness to spend money and failure to put a competitive product on the ice. The 22 games the Isles will play without Tavares won’t be the first time the fans have questioned whether spending money to watch a struggling team in an antiquated building is worth it.
Second, this is the same guy that was apparently fuming at USA Hockey’s snub of Kyle Okposo, right? Hard to be furious that one of your guys wasn’t included while also incensed that another was allowed to compete.
And lastly, Snow himself participated in the Olympics as part of the U.S. team in the 1994 Games and again represented his country in the 1998 World Championships. Snow said in his comments to Newsday that he did not “begrudge” any player for competing in the Games, but you have to wonder how these comments might put Tavares in a tough spot.
Already reeling from a serious injury that has sidelined him for the rest of the tournament and the season, Tavares shouldn’t have to feel guilty for wanting to represent his country. Injuries happen. That’s part of the deal. It’s unfortunate, and though Snow absolved Tavares of any blame, there does seem to be some underlying implication that Tavares' injury puts his NHL team behind the eight ball.
And let’s be honest: The Islanders’ playoff hopes were beyond bleak even before Tavares went down in the second period of Canada’s quarterfinal win against Latvia.
With a 3-6-1 record in their last 10 games heading into the Olympic break, the Islanders currently sit 12 points out of the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Maybe Snow was simply trying to voice the organization’s displeasure; after all, owner Charles Wang rarely speaks to the media. No one can blame Snow for being frustrated about losing his team’s best player, and this instance will certainly be used to make the case against NHL participation in the 2018 Olympics, but the message didn’t quite hit its intended mark.