Olympic Hockey: Like the World Cup, except not for hockey fans

The NHL has provided more than $2 BILLION of committed contracts in terms of players to the Olympics. The Capitals have provided in our six players more than $200 million worth of talent as well, I believe. And in payment back we received two free tickets to each game per team :-). Seems like a fair exchange, huh?

And we aren’t allowed to do any press work on site or media streaming in any way or use the Olympic logos or see our players or park at the arena and on and on. I bet I am violating some rules in blogging about the Olympics as I am not paying a penny to do so. I didn’t ask for permission or credentials either.

I love the Olympics but we don’t have a fair exchange of value that is for sure.

>>Capitals owner Ted Leonsis

I like international hockey, but there are some absurd sides to the [space for rent] Olympics that make this avenue toward a "best-on-best" hockey tournament almost intolerable to me -- not the least of which is the U.S. broadcast rights holder's failure to reliably and promptly televise the games for which the NHL has shut down.

Looking for highlights of these NHL players on the NHL Network? Sorry, not allowed. Want to watch an authorized live stream? Sign up and install this Microsoft plug-in. Want to know when the game will be on? It's after curling, already half-way through the first period, on a different NBC cable outlet, until a bit later when we'll switch the channel again. Deal with it -- and in the meantime, check out this dancing "competition" where the winners are determined by judges of debatable impartiality.

Dick Pound, the anti-doping hero of so many famous sweeping claims about drugs in the NHL, is on the International Olympic Committee and -- wouldn't you know it? -- finds the Olympics essentially beyond reproach, no matter what happens.

Pound believes criticism of the current Winter Commercial Games is due to a bored media, which is some kind of irony considering his standing m.o. to use the media as a way of drumming up publicity for his World Anti-Doping Agency claims.

The Credit Card Olympics controllers are so determined to appear pure and commercial-free (well, an alternate universe definition of "commercial-free") that the venue every hockey fan knows as G.M. Place is now absurdly referred to as "Canada Hockey Place." Per traditional policy, the IOC covered the advertising from the boards in G.M. Place -- only to replace it with a mash of pastel Olympic imagery that actually makes the puck harder to see on TV. That's right: In order to form a more perfect, tightly controlled commercial union, viewers suffer.

The Olympics so carefully guards the sanctity of the five rings logo that every episode of Law & Order, The Biggest Loser, and whatever they call Jay Leno's oxygen-consuming existence features a network logo on top of those sacred five rings. Go to the right fast-food joint and the five rings are all over it, while my television tells me I too can eat junk and drink soda like an Olympian. (Cue John Belushi, cigarette in hand: "I ran a lot of miles training for that day. And I downed a lot of doughnuts ... Little Chocolate Doughnuts.")

The whole goalie mask "propaganda" issue was just par for the course. The Fast-Food Olympics wants to sell us on pageantry and tear-jerk personal stories (unless a luger dies ... then it is unfortunate "operator error"). Just don't let Ryan Miller tell us that personal story in a small way, with a few token images on his mask, including the "S" denoting the college half of his hockey-crazed family has attended. I've no doubt the small concession to allow Miller to keep the tribute to his late cousin was a careful P.R. decision.

 

Restore the World Cup, Kiss the NBC Visa Coke Samsung Olympics Good Bye

I'm being a bit flippant and rant-ish, of course. I get the financial realities of putting on a showcase of, um, "sport." And the Soft Drink Olympics need, um, "partners" to help foot the bill. But as an NHL fan and a distressed observer of the pre-packaged soap opera the Electronics Maker Games have become, I no longer see the fit. The problem is the rope-a-soap-dope Olympics and hockey are after two different things, and two different audiences, which is why NBC understandably chooses figure skating over Canada vs. USA hockey in prime time.

Allow me to quote Gary Bettman in a momentary rap of reason:

"This is one of the things we don't have control over. We bring in 140-plus players and we participate in the Olympics by stopping our season for two weeks, but this is the IOC's show, the broadcasters' show and the IIHF's show. There are a lot of things we don't have control over and going forward, it may be we need to be a little more involved than at least to this point we've been allowed to be."

Unfortunate CBA-bargaining tactics aside, forgive me for being in full agreement with the commissioner here.

I understand the NHL players' desire to continue this arrangement, and I suppose there's no replacement for the Olympic village "experience" (though do NHLers really fit there?). But I wonder if they couldn't be coaxed away from interrupting the NHL season to appear on MSNBC and instead throw weight behind a more regularly scheduled World Cup that puts hockey first. Why, then their national teams could even train together before the tournament, instead of leaving their national pride at the mercy of a chemistry experiment.

Then there would be no worries about the two-week interruption, the compressed schedule and implied injuries it causes, the lack of broadcast control -- and all the other side effects that are the cost of placing your best-on-best hockey tournament under that Most Holy and Pristine Logo with the five rings. Right after curling and NCIS reruns.

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