Is this good news or bad news?
In less than a month (Feb 7th through Feb 23rd) the 2014 Winter Games will begin and the NHL season will press pause on the season. Three Dallas Stars players invited to attend the games in Sochi are goaltender Kari Lehtonen (Finland), rookie forward Valeri Nichushkin (Russia), and Team Captain Jamie Benn.
What’s not to like, right?
At face value it looks like all good news but the more attention paid, the more concerns appear. Obviously playing in the Winter Games is in-and-of-itself pretty awesome. It is an honor to be selected. It is an honor to represent ones country. It builds character and provides as an irreplaceable learning environment for all involved.
It also adds extra mileage to the bodies of the Stars top players. When others are resting and getting healthy, Olympians are continuing to work, increasing fatigue and increasing chances of new or further injuries. The travel and emotion will also take its toll on these key players. The fun and excitement of the Winter games are hard to duplicate in the NHL so expect an emotional let-down when they return to the NHL.
Maybe the advantages outweigh the disadvantages, but maybe not. If all three return healthy, matured, and invigorated – then great. But will it still be great if Jamie Benn injures a hamstring that nags him for months ahead? What happens if Valeri misses his ehhem…comrades… and decides to return to the KHL? What would happen to playoff hopes if Kari is lost and the Stars must continue without their top goaltender.
I know, you can’t live in a world of “what if’s”. Especially in sports. But isn’t it wise to always weigh the risk against reward? Trying to hold players back isn’t an option. Players have to play. It’s too important not to. But there is risk involved.
I can’t wait for the Games to begin. Olympic Hockey is the single best thing in all of Olympic sport. I expect that, despite the physical toll, Benn and Nichushkin will be better men for having played. I’m scared to death about losing Kari and don’t even want to think of what his loss would do to the Stars if something were to happen.
I suppose I’ll be holding my breath from time to time and just pray for the best. This is Olympic hockey after all. And that’s good news.
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