DETROIT >> Could the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, have been the last time NHL players take part?
That seems like a very distinct possibility, but many of the Wings feel their participation should continue.
“We were filling some forms and they were asking us questions,” Tomas Tatar said. “I don’t think the Olympics would be the same for hockey, especially. You want to have the best, elite at the Olympics.”
“It’s great NHL players have been going over there, but obviously, logistically it’s tough to travel as far as we have and miss that much during the regular season, having a big break like that is tough,” Justin Abdelkader said. “We’ll see. That’ll be a hot topic next couple of years.”
There are many issues with NHL players taking part in the Olympics, including time differences, injuries and the fact that the league is shut down for two and a half weeks.
The 2018 Winter Olympics are in Pyeongchang, South Korea, a country that’s 14 hours ahead of the Eastern time zone.
The Wings have lost Henrik Zetterberg for possibly the rest of the season due to a herniated disc, which he had surgery on Friday to repair. It’s an injury that’s plagued him all season.
“I know for owners and managers the injuries are not the best,” said Tatar, who played in his first Olympics with Slovakia. “But injuries are part of hockey, injuries can happen here, too.”
Zetterberg played in one game with Sweden before withdrawing.
The New York Islanders lost John Tavares for the season with a knee injury he suffered in the quarterfinals.
“You see players sustain an injury to keep them out the rest of the year, it’s tough, but at the same time playing in the Olympics is something special,” Abdelkader said. “Playing for your country, there’s something to be said for that. I could see it both ways. It’s definitely going to be a hot topic in the coming year.”
NHL players have participated in the Olympics since 1998.
“The Olympics has always been something special because of that (NHL participation), all the best players can be there,” Johan Franzen said. “I think all the players want to go there, too. It’s a little bit of a break for the league, but we have a break every year with the all-star break. This is longer, but I think they should continue doing what they’ve been doing because it’s a big deal to win that gold.”
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said a final decision on the NHL’s participation would come within the next six months.
Wings assistant coach Tom Renney was the coach of Canada in the last Olympics that didn’t use NHL players, 1994 in Lillehammer, Norway.
“It is a tough call,” Renney said. “I think if I’m an owner and a general manager I’m real skeptical of whether or not our guys should participate in this quite honestly. If I’m a player, I want to go. Having been there I can relate to that.”
Renney, who guided Canada to a silver medal in 1994, is in favor of letting the Olympics be played by amateurs and/or younger professionals and possibly bringing back the World Cup of hockey for the NHL players.
“Let the young, great players in our game play at the under-23 level and it still becomes an exciting and outstanding event,” Renney said.