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2002olympics

National Hockey League players began participating at the Olympics in 1998. Until then, only amateur players, and non-NHL professionals starting in 1988, could play hockey in the Olympics. NHL players returned to the Winter Games in 2002 and 2006, and they will also compete at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. It’s uncertain whether they will participate in the Olympics after 2010 because NHL executives believe that the league hasn’t benefitted from its players joining the Olympics.

According to Media Daily News, the NHL hoped to use the Olympic platform as a marketing opportunity, similar to how the NBA benefited from marketing opportunities and retail sales of its “Dream Team” players. NHL executives believe the league hasn’t found a way to do this.

One reason for this is because the Olympics occur during the middle of the hockey season, so the NHL has to shut down for multiple weeks. This can make it confusing for fans when the season starts again because they may not remember what was going on before the Olympics. The NBA is able to market the league and gain exposure year-round because the Summer Games take place during the off-season.

I don’t think the NHL should expect to benefit from the Olympics like the NBA does. Hockey isn’t as popular as basketball in the United States, where most of the NHL teams play. Hockey receives hardly any media coverage. Turn on ESPN and you’ll see numerous NBA highlights. No matter what the NHL does, I don’t think this will ever change. Millions of people watch basketball games on TV, but most think that watching hockey on TV is boring. Hockey is more exciting in person, but not everyone has the opportunity to attend games.

Another reason the NHL hasn’t benefitted is because of an incident that happened at the 1998 Olympics. After losing, players on the American team destroyed property in Olympic Village rooms. They broke furniture and threw a fire extinguisher out a window. Because of the global Olympic stage, people around the world thought the team, made up of NHL players, had no sportsmanship and that they were ungrateful. The American team did well and no incidents occurred at the 2002 Olympics, but people still remember what happened in Nagano.

If the NHL isn’t getting enough out of the Olympics, then why should the league allow its players to participate? I believe that the Olympics should feature the world’s greatest athletes, but the NHL is a business. Executives aren’t going to continue allowing Olympic participation if the league doesn’t gain exposure and increase revenue.

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