NY Islanders News

The Deke Squad – Issue No. 5: Tavares Early Season Exit, Garth Snow’s Comments, & the “Oshie Rule”

By Rich Dias-Rodrigues
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1. With injuries to Mats Zuccarello and John Tavares, should Gary Bettman and all those involved with Olympic hockey, rethink the idea of allowing NHL talent to participate in these events? Should the process be reverted back to amateurs? Is there a middle ground?

CT: It’s tough. There are so many sides to it. So many parties play a role in this. The players want to play. The IOC and IIHF want to have the professionals in the Games. The owners don’t want the players in, and fans are split – casual fans definitely want the professionals, but a fan invested into an NHL team might not feel the same way.

Personally, I’m all for the professionals playing in the Olympics, but I know I would still watch and get just as excited about USA hockey if the amateurs were playing….but I also LOVE hockey. I love watching the World Junior Hockey Championship. I even get up for the World Hockey Championship in the spring.

I don’t think there’s any middle ground, but I would be OK with the decision swaying in either way. Of course, I’d probably be a little bit more upset about Tavares right now if 1) the Isles were in the playoff hunt, and 2) he was expected to miss time next season, but still, it happens. Tavares could have gotten injured here in the team’s first game back, and that can be said about any player.

Again, either way, I’m fine.

RDR: I disagree vehemently with the players’ stance on this one item for many reasons, two of which I will highlight here.

  • Olympic sports is an amateur event, allowing for youth to take center stage.

Understanding full-well, however, that for most countries outside of North America, most representatives for a given Olympic sport would send an equivalent of a professional athlete–aka USSR and their hockey teams of the past–while Canada and the US would send college kids, tilting the scales in favor of Europeans, et al. That said, there are many who cite that a country should send its “best” representation to these games, and only professionals could flip that bill. But I’m of the ilk that seeing college players outperform so-called professional-leveled athletes from around the world only embolden the upcoming talent to be found throughout North America.

The Olympics should be a chance for up-and-coming talent to showcase their abilities–an opportunity for the youth to work toward an epic goal, marked by worldly attention and fame, for love of the sport and not the almighty dollar. The aforementioned should definitely apply to hockey, perhaps the most coveted event and medal in the entire Winter Games.

For me, Olympic hockey has lost its lustre because professionals are involved. Hockey, Basketball, Tennis and all those Olympic sports that use professionals have overshadowed and buried the spirit of these games, making it nothing more than a trade show rather than an exercise in free-spirited competition. It’s a business more now than ever.

My solution: let NHL rookies and anyone U22 play. I’d love to see the Czech Republic bring up a 17-year old phenom to play alongside a Tomas Hertl, etc. That’s what the Olympics should be about: youth and talent.

  • Risk of injuries to key players increases two-fold

John Tavares, Mats Zuccarello, Henrik Zetterberg all injured during Sochi and now their teams have to pay for what’s broken. Terrible. Awful. Each player mentioned here are intricate parts of their respective NHL teams, and now with their injuries, each club is forced to live out the remaining part of the season without them, especially the Islanders.

No one to “blame” here except the players themselves, who wrote in the Olympic clause in their latest CBA deal.

These players are too valuable to their clubs to be lost in a tourney such as this one. Yes, it’s an honor to play for one’s country, but as with all professional sports, sacrifices have to be made. You make a decision to be a pro hockey player, you have to make decisions that you may not like. But when you sign on the dotted line, you have to accept that you’re valuable property. That’s final.

Yes, it’s cold. Yes, it’s almost medieval in its treatment of players as commodities. But no one is asking them to play this sport. But if you decide to do so, you have to make sacrifices.

No to Olympic participation. If you’re Tavares, Zuccarello, and Zetterberg, your No. 1 priority is to your club and the person signing helping to put food on the table.

Thank goodness Kyle Okposo was snubbed. For now he must carry the entire Islander team these next 22 games.  Glad he’s rested and ready to go and ready to shine.

CT: I like that U22 solution. Interesting, although if it’s a 21-year-old Tavares…..