Craig S asked in SportsHockey · 1 decade ago

Are the World Championships and Olympics less meaningful with so many Europeans in the NHL?

While watching Russia beat Canada in overtime, I found that I couldn't muster any dislike for the Russians even after they came back to beat us. Most of them are NHLers, many of whom I greatly respect.and like, a huge difference from the Summit Series or even the old Canada Cup series when they were evil Communists.

Now that the Russians and other Europeans have lost their anonymity and mysteriousness, do you think championships like the WC or Olympics have lost a little luster?


Edit - For those who seem confused, what I'm asking is whether these championships are as meaningful now that we see these Europeans play in North America on a regular basis. There used to be much more mystery and dislike involved.

Update 2:

Man U - I'm the same way, I'll watch every game of every tournament. Thankfully I don't have a supervisor so I was able to work around this year's games.

7 Answers

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    It's a difficult question to answer because everybody has a different idea.

    When the Olympics were created by Baron de Coubertin, his vision of an amateur athlete was an athlete who was dedicated to his sport, but had a regular job. The idea was also that the BEST athletes in the world competed (i.e. he was pretty specific that the pastry baker down the road was NOT an athlete).

    Over time, the world of sports has evolved. Sponsors have come on board, television has come on board, etc. The only difference between Carl Lewis and Jesse Owens was that Jesse Owen's prize money was $250/meet and Carl Lewis got $25,000. They both dedicated their spare time to being the best track and field athlete on the planet. Emil Zatopek was the top athlete earner in Europe in 1951, the year before he became an Olympic hero winning 3 gold medals. The IOC didn't care then.

    In 1980, the US Olympic Hockey Team players had an average income of $4300. The Swedish team had an average annual income of $47,000K (from playing hockey).

    Every player that represented Sweden, Finland, Soviet Union, Germany, etc from about 1960 onwards were professional players in the sense that they were payed to play hockey for their club teams. Part of the reason Canada walked away from the IIHF was because the IIHF and IOC considered the NHL as the ONLY professional league in the world.

    - Finnish goaltender Hannu Lassila played in 2 Olympics AFTER playing in the WHA).

    - Erich Kuhnhackl turned down an offer from the New York Rangers for $1MM a year in 1975 because he was making more playing in Germany..............he represented Germany after this revelation.

    - Vladislav Tretiak wrote in his book he was paid $23,000 USD equivalent a year starting in 1971 to play hockey for CSKA (and by doing 2 weeks military exercizes a year the IOC would turn their head the other way).

    - the great Sedish Hockey player Sven 'Tumba' Johansson was Sweden's highest paid athlete several times in the 1960s and 1970s, yet competed at several World Championships and Olympics during this time period

    The great American IOC leader Avery Brundage addressed Clarence Campbell and the NHL on this issue in the early 70s

    and these were part of the discussions that led to the creation of the Canada Cup (i.e. the world's best players would play for the right to be #1) because the talks gave no impression that the IOC would consider any other league pro.

    For me, the Russians and the Europeans lost their anonymity and luster in the early 1970s. There was still some mystery however as we only saw these players on a rare occurrence.

    One of the things that made the Miracle on Ice such a force in the hockey world was that it featured a bunch of young raw truly amateur players beating a team of seasoned professionals. The IOC doesn't broadcast that claim, but that is what it truly was. The Swedes..............professionals. The Finns...........professionals. The Soviets..............professionals. None of these teams beat the American amateurs.

    One of the big things that Hitchcock said after the game on Sunday was that it was 'no big deal' was the Olympics that count. This actually took the NHLPA by surprise because the NHLPA thinks the World Cup of Hockey still has life left in it.

    For me, the following tournaments have mattered

    1981 Canada Cup (the Russians brought a subpar team in 1976 that while including the top 6-7 players, left the next 6-7 back home)

    1984 Canada Cup

    1987 Canada Cup

    1991 Canada Cup

    1996 World Cup

    1998 Olympics

    2002 Olympics

    2004 World Cup

    2006 Olympics

    These are the only 9 tournaments where the hockey powers that be have sent their absolute best players available (sure, Ray Bourque declined 1996, Valery Kharlamov was left off 1981 (although he died a week before tournament began anyway prompting Tretiak to return to Moscow for the funeral).

    For me, these are the tournaments with the most meaning. I agree that with so many Europeans in the NHL nowadays these meetings are more like glorified all-star games because we see them so often. But they are still a joy to watch.

    1. So, I think if the NHLPA ever gets their act together, the World Cup of Hockey will be the most meaningful (this is an NHLPA sanctioned tournament with the IIHF's blessing).

    2. As long as the NHL/NHLPA sees the benefits in it, the Olympics will be a close 2nd (This is an IIHF sanctioned tournament with the NHL/NHKPA's blessing)

    3. The World Championships will always be a distant third because it lacks consistency. Prior to the European influx in the NHL, Canada and the US could not send their best teams due to the NHL playoffs and were at a huge disadvantage. Now with the NHL playoffs, not all countries have access to their best players (i.e. Sweden would have been a LOT better if Zetterberg and Lidtrsom weren't going for the Cup) so while it levels the playing field somewhat, it's not complete.

    There are Canadians who feel that without Iginla, Lecavalier, etc that it isn't a National Team. Russian fans feel the same way without Malkin and Datsyuk. Swedish fans feel the same way without Zetterberg and Lidstrom.

    So, only when the 'big guns' play does the tournament have any luster.

  • The Olympics had already lost their luster when they allowed pros to play. I understand the reasoning, but you will never see the excitement of Lake Placid again.

    The WC is still meaningful and seems to have replaced the Olympics, as far as hockey is concerned. Just from reading some of the posts on here, there was still that national pride involved. Too bad I couldn't see it in the US, at least where I live.

  • i think it's only to be expected with nhl players playing in these international tourneys, and although they may be teammates, friends, when they're wearing their home country's jersey they feel the honour and most likely know the history/background between the oppositions. i heard after the tourney that maybe the rivalry between the two teams isn't intense like it was back in the day, and maybe not to that extent, but that doesn't mean that the two teams are best friends. and if anything you know that russia winning this year is going to boost up the moral on team canada when the two sides meet again. and also rivalries in the making between the slavic and scandanavian countries is great to see.

    i huh'd at your question too. you're trying to say that the europeans play nhl here, are playing ahl here, or major junior/junior here, and then they're going back and representing their home country. i can't fault them for that. i don't think that would weaken the enthusiasm for international hockey tournaments. i think the competition's better, and i'll continue to watch them.

    ie. like the russians don't grow up in russia, and play hockey, growing up and learning about the history behind the russia-canadian rivalry. or like the canadian players don't grow up in canada and learn about the dislike for the russians...or even with sweden and finland who are neighbouring countries but put the two teams together on opposite sides and they usually play like it's the end of the world...naw i don't think the dislikes aren't there. they're still there i mean everytime a canadian team faces usa in international sports (including hockey), there's an intensity because we want to beat the us at everything. it's competition. it may not be like how it is back when because most of us are growing up years later from certain historical events, but that doesn't mean we're all best friends.

    "There are Canadians who feel that without Iginla, Lecavalier, etc that it isn't a National Team."

    i'm not one of those people. i watch all the international tourneys for hockey canada, and i love them all. go team canada!!!!

    Source(s): vancouver 2010!
  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Nope. A hockey championship is a hockey championship. No ifs, ands, or buts about it.

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