clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

John Tavares Injury: Garth Snow Rips IOC in Rare Moment of Public Steam

Whatever set Garth Snow off, the NHL will say thank you very much.

Undo. Undo! I clicked UNDO!
Undo. Undo! I clicked UNDO!
Streeter Lecka

New York Islanders general manager Garth Snow doesn't often rant for public consumption or go off on anyone on the record.

But losing his franchise player to injury during an in-season, non-Islanders competition might be what brings about the exception.

Newsday's Arthur Staple tweeted out a series of quotes from Snow in the wake of John Tavares' season-ending knee injury, and while the spirit of the words echo what many NHL officials and team management types have repeated over and over throughout the NHLers-in-the-Olympics era, the timing comes off as bitter frustration in the heat of the moment:

[Update: Check Staple's article for Newsday for more quotes and coverage than what you see below]

Oh. Oh, don't go there. Now you leave yourself open to...

Yep, that.

But anyway, Snow (via Staple) continued:

Sour grapes then? Maybe. Though I wouldn't put it past the Isles and the NHL to say, "This right here? When an MVP finalist and third-leading scorer is lost to a major injury? This is a good time to take another swing in the NHL vs. Olympics vs. NHLPA PR battle, if you're game."

Regardless, as Dan later observed, "The season ticket holder thing is an open invitation for ridicule. Even in jest. Could have said "unfortunate," etc. and moved on."


The point has already been made by a few people that since the Islanders were reportedly upset (though not quoted) when Kyle Okposo was left off the U.S. team, they can't have it both ways and be upset now. But that's not true: You can totally be upset about the tournament or its financial arrangements itself, but also -- having granted that it exists -- be upset that one of your own was overlooked for the honor that the tournament implies. It's not hypocritical, it's just dealing with two realities which both suck. (Add to it Lubomir Visnovsky's injury history and their decision to keep him from going to Sochi, and you have three realities with their own particular contexts.)

(It's kind of like being upset about how an awards criteria is defined, then also be upset that a player was overlooked by voters despite qualifying under that flawed criteria.)

Isles Vent, NHL Puts it in the File

Nonetheless, this is a rare moment of on-the-record blowing off steam by the Islanders general manager. It probably will play well with fans who don't much like NHLers in the Olympics anyway, but it won't look too good for an Islanders franchise that did celebrate its Olympians, nor will many "season ticket holders" feel good about being mentioned when they're already watching a last-place product with John Tavares in the lineup.

But for the NHL? The injury is bad, but the publicity serves them.

Tavares could have been hurt anywhere. But I do get why the NHL, a business, questions its 'partnership' with the Olympics, a business

It's another moment the NHL can point to in the months years ahead, as they continue their on-going three-way battle with the IOC-IIHF bloc which acts like keeping NHLers out of the Olympics is an affront to the godly and pure {cough} competitive nature of the Olympics itself, and the NHLPA members who don't care about the politics or profits but think it's cool to represent their country and win shiny medals.

Next time Rene Fasel and Gary Bettman (with Donald Fehr cameos) take turns crafting careful language about how little they mean to each other, the news stories will include, "when the NHL's third leading scorer was injured at the Olympics, his GM called the situation 'a joke.'"

(Oh, and at this point I should note that if this were a different team, or a different GM, there would also be a narrative from some circles about how he "stood up for his team" and "rallied the troops in a moment of peril," etc. And if the Isles somehow made a miraculous return to the playoff bubble, I'd expect to see that narrative even with them.)

Personally, though the Olympics excite me momentarily and in the moment every four years, I could take or leave NHL participation. I'm not bitter though: John Tavares could have mangled his knee on a hit by an obscure Latvian during Olympic competition, during a blowout in a World Championship match, on a rut in the Coliseum ice, or thanks to a dirty hit in an NHL game. Injuries happen.

But I do get why the NHL, a business, repeatedly challenges and questions whether the Olympics, a business, is worth their time and risk. Which is why the issue was and remains a collectively bargained topic with those who want it most, the players.

So see you in Korea in 2018, or maybe not. Though it lacks tacky Nationalist By Nike (TM) uniforms to briefly rechannel the irrational fan's rooting passion for a couple weeks every four years, what the NHL has going for it is "the best in the world" play in its arenas every night from October to June.