"Oh, oh, the tide is turning."
-Roger Waters, Radio KAOS
The more I reluctantly ponder the 2014 Sochi Olympics, the more I wonder if NHL players will be taken by surprise by switching hemispheres mid-season and immersing themselves into what could be a made-for-media cultural/political drama.
First, there are the mechanics of just getting there and adjusting to new rink dimensions and a setting very different from that which many enjoyed in Vancouver in 2010 or Salt Lake in 2002. Blues and Canada (assistant) coach Ken Hitchcock recently explained what's in store:
"The Olympics aren’t in Sochi. That’s where people are going to stay. The events will be in another town called Adler. They shifted the 9,000 residents there an hour and a half south but they didn’t take their pets. There’s 3,500 wild dogs running around. They’re everywhere. They don’t look like anybody’s Jack Russell or lab. They’re a little bit mangy.
"The players will be spending 95 percent of the time in the dorms, too. The NHL players love the Olympics because it’s a wonderful venue but in the past they’ve been able to back to the five-star (hotel) and we’ve always had the Mortons and Ruth Chris (steak-houses) to go too. There ain’t no Ruth Chris’s in Sochi and no five-stars. Maybe a Best Western.
"On the atmosphere in Russia next February: "We’re going to show them (film) of what it is. We don’t want to scare them. We just want the reality of it and it’ll be the same for every team. When players go into an uncomfortable setting the more they know the better it’ll be."
Beyond that, there is the on-going issue of Russia's absurd laws against, essentially, talking about homosexuality as if it is real or okay, and what, if anything, NHL players should do about it.
But it's not just what NHL players could do. It's likely to be a news topic during the whole competition, especially if any athlete from any competition has a go at the Russian laws.
Although the Olympics are a huge commercial operation and as corrupt as most characters on The Wire, they still uphold a pretense of being above humanity's worst traits. They hold these ideals of a pure sports competition where the rest of humanity's failings do not -- and must not -- interfere. So yes, they will enforce finger nail polish colors, by golly. And it will be news if someone even mildly rocks the boat.
That will be interesting for NHLers, taking a detour in the middle of an intense season, to play for their country and adjust to a new setting (and not having a steakhouse, apparently).
I would never tell someone "THIS is when you have to make a stand," but if they want to, NHL hockey players are in a unique position to make some noise because their livelihoods do not depend on Olympic-related events. Unlike other Olympians who pretty much need good standing in the eyes of Olympic-aligned governing bodies to continue their careers and
make a living glorify the commercial- and politics-free purity of sport, NHLers can afford to tell the international sporting bodies to go Avery themselves, because they have day jobs.
Google Image search "1968 Olympics Mexico" and you get one of the most powerful yet delightfully minimalist statements against discrimination we've seen in the media age. So there will be opportunities for creative athletes to have their say. (Although, being arrested in Russia would probably suck, if Russia were stupid enough to actually arrest international sporting stars for having the nerve to, say, wear a rainbow ribbon.)
This is on my mind because it's been an interesting year for gay athletes. NHL players have increasingly gotten behind the You Can Play project, and athletes have been coming out in several sports -- soccer, basketball, WWE star Darren Young just casually came out like it was no big deal.
And of course the point of "coming out" in this way isn't to make news that someone is gay. It's to build understanding so that one day, homosexuality will not be news at all. The way 2013 is going, there's a decent chance that by this winter, the sporting world will look at Russia as an eyesore.
Isles and NHL Bits
- Speaking of Olympic silliness, did you know Lubomir Visnovsky was ONCE A DOPER?!? He took Tylenol Flu and everything. Cheater.
- Good radio here with Gary Harding and John Panarese, who had Jiggs McDonald on for their show debut.
- Summer goal voting: Fancy Josh Bailey (but really Okposo) vs. Snazzy Thomas Hickey (but really Tavares)
- Nothing new here, but some fun videos in CBS' attempt at the greatest Islanders of all time.
- So there's this then: People watch Flyers paint Wells Fargo Center ice, which still looks dumb - Broad Street Hockey
- A helmet cam that might not make you sick: This KHL Helmet Cam Gives Us A Sweet First-Person Look At Hockey
- An announcer reflects on 15 years with the expansion Predators.
- This is excellent, really: Blue Jackets fans hold blog-based gathering, new team GM shows up.
- OMG, first they let Crosby skip to the front of the DMV line, now they let Bylsma skip jury duty?!? And paint the Pond in Anaheim to look like the Casino in Pittsburgh?!?! The whole league, the bureaucracy, Hollywood and the justice system ALL ARE BUYASED FOR TEH PENS!!1
- Teemu Selanne's decision on whether to continue at age seems to rest on whether the 43-year-old can do the role he wants or accept the role 43-year-olds are likely to get.
- The Sharks, sadly, have again abandoned traditional hem stripes in their stupid new jerseys. Travesty. Making those threads less busy? Good. Going too far as to make it a practice jersey? Bad. BAD. UPDATE: Apparently the Sharks players wanted it that way because stripes just weigh them down too much, just like playoff expectations.
Are You An Ice Girl? No? You Failed.
Finally, yet another year has passed and we have failed to qualify anyone from the Lighthouse Hockey editorial board on the Ice Girls crew. McNally said something about "a flat tire, out of gas," Mikb said he hurt his knee practicing his flag routine, while Keith mysteriously broke a skate lace on his way to tryouts.
Worse, to our knowledge no regular commenters were made Ice Girls, either. There's no telling whether any of our lurkers made the squad, but suffice to say this isn't good enough.
Try harder next year, please. And maybe you can become an Ice Girl and do honor to all of Lighthouse Hockey: