Nothing sells the game better than seeing the best on best.
That point was hammered home at the Vancouver Olympics, where worldwide TV viewing of the hockey tourney reached new heights.
And while Gary Bettman and the owners appear bent on pulling NHL players from the Sochi Games, fans shouldn’t fret as they will still be treated to an identical format that makes even more sense: The World Cup.
In fact, given the choice, North American hockey fans should hope for the World Cup to replace the Olympics as the game’s top showcase.
Bettman isn’t keen on Sochi given its remoteness, time of the games and the fact the NHL has absolutely no say or control of the event. The NHL and its owners stand to gain nothing financially with the five-ring circus despite taking all the risks by shutting down mid-season and providing the talent.
It makes far more sense for all stakeholders — including the fans — for the best players on the planet to focus on the World Cup of Hockey, formerly the Canada Cup.
The owners will get their piece of the action, the players will get theirs, North American fans can see every game in primetime, and all the host cities will generate tremendous buzz and money for every game. People will watch.
An even bigger bonus will be the timing of the event. While the players and the owners are at odds over when the event should run, common sense suggests the owners will win and it will once again be staged in the fall, when every player is healthy and available.
Could there be a better way to grab the sports world’s attention than by opening your season with a marquee event?
Ideally, the world’s best players would face off against one another every two years — at the Olympics and at the World Cup. The reality is it’s likely only going to happen every four years, and while the obvious sentimental choice for many Canadians is the Olympics, the World Cup serves the game and its fans better.
Besides, the Olympics will be fine on its own, without hockey.
Now more notes, quotes and anecdotes from a sports world that must finally be ready to ignore the Calgary Stampeders’ light schedule and finally believe they’re for real.
Around the horn
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