John Buccigross: Sunday Was The Best Day Of Hockey Of The Year


John Buccigross

In order to work the Olympics into the NHL's 82-game regular-season schedule, the NHL shut down 17 days for the 1998 Nagano Games, 12 days for the 2002 Salt Lake City, Utah Games and 15 days for the '06 Games in Torino, Italy. This year, the League is taking a 14-day sabbatical for the Vancouver games. Many NHL teams do not like the break. It shuts down the NHL for two weeks during the winter. It's expensive, compresses the schedule and can result in injuries.

The NHL doesn't mind so much when the games are in North America. The travel isn't as bad or expensive and the games are in live windows that people in North America are able to watch. The next Olympics are in Russia and the rumbling are starting that the NHL really doesn't want to go.

Bettman said this at his news conference in Vancouver: "To be at these Olympics we must basically hand over control of our most important asset -- our players. This costs us money, this disrupts our season and we're here (only) because we think it helps our game. That doesn't mean we're not going to and it doesn't mean we are going to go."

I'm here to say, bet the Staal family farm that NHL WILL be at the 2014 Winter Olympics at Sochi, Russia.

The players want to go. The fans want to watch. And that will trump everything.

Sunday was the best day of hockey of the year and it will likely go down as the best day of the year. Better than the outdoor game. Better than a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Final. The best talent in the world in one building on one day. USA beats Canada. Alex Ovechkin lays a thunderous hit on Jaromir Jagr. And Sweden beats archrival Finland. And they didn't even hand out any medals!

During the USA-Canada game I had people who never watch hockey text me over and over again. When Ryan Kesler scored his one-handed, empty net goal, my phone dinged and dinged and dinged, until I had ten messages on the cell.

My ten year old Jackson was watching. Chris’ (McKendry) seven-year old Eduardo. And not just watching. They were INVOLVED. And that stays with kids.

This tournament is the greatest hockey tournament in the world. It engages non-hockey fans and children and some will become hockey fans for life. Some will even play. And for those, like me, who plan our daily lives around the sport, it's a gift for all the money and emotion we throw at the sports.

Gary Bettman and his army of suits won't take that away. It would be the wrong decision and terrible P.R.

To Russia with love.