SUN Hockey Pool

Olympics rough on NHL

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:40 PM ET

Here’s to a great Olympic hockey tournament.

May the action be thrilling from start to finish and gold won without requiring a shootout.

Because as soon as the final game is decided, the great debate regarding sending NHL players to Russia for the 2014 Games will begin in earnest. Worse yet, it will become a major bargaining chip when the NHL and its players begin negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement.

For the most part, players want to shut down the league for a couple of weeks to send the best from each country to the Olympics. Those who’ll play love the idea of facing the top skaters in the world on the big stage.

Those who don’t get picked for the Games love the idea of a week or more worth of vacation mid-season.

But it’s understandable why the NHL isn’t 100% sold on the idea. The return on their investment — shutting down a league for games on the international stage — hasn’t translated enough to the bottom line through television revenue.

Sure, it makes sense to put the league on hiatus it when the tournament is in Salt Lake City or Vancouver. Travel isn’t the issue. It’s time zones.

Canadian hockey fans will be awake at ungodly hours to watch their team play in Sochi, but nowhere near as many will be willing to watch the Czechs play Finland or the like.

How many south of the border will do the same even when the U.S. is skating?

Not enough to translate into great TV ratings for NHL action afterwards.

If the players really want to skate at the Olympics, they’d best be willing to surrender something when CBA talks begin.

In short, the players’ desire to skate in the Olympic tournament — which always ends up being great hockey — will come at their expense in some capacity.

Flaming C-Notes

Somewhat forgotten in the swoon which has taken the Flames from Northwest Division leaders to playoff bubble team is the potential toll on goalie Miikka Kiprusoff. The losing streaks, and middling play, has painted the club in a corner where it will need Kiprusoff between the pipes nearly every game down the stretch. Flames fans will understandably be hoping Finland doesn’t have the same success at the Olympic tournament as it did four years ago ... For all those Flames fans who are down on Cory Sarich, consider the fact the club was chasing Wade Redden and “lost out” on those sweepstakes. Redden has taken struggling to a new level with the New York Rangers and is signed through 2013-14 with a annual cap hit of US$6.5-million ... Newly-acquired Matt Stajan may not be a No.-1 centre — detractors say he’s not really a second-line pivot — but the pending UFA can do worse than taking a little less money over the next couple of years and playing on a line with Jarome Iginla and Niklas Hagman. It will be an interesting study what Stajan and his agent choose to do in the summer ... For all those praising Mark Giordano and saying Jay Bouwmeester hasn’t lived up to his billing — which is true in the offensive zone — consider how much of Giordano’s improvement this season stems from skating much of it with Bouwmeester as his partner. It’s a case of two strong pieces working well together.

Hockey talky

Always love hearing GMs from around the league say they didn’t know a certain player was available and they would have surrendered a better package to land him had they been a trading partner, as has happened in the case of Calgary dealing away Dion Phaneuf. All those who have said that, feel free to announce what they would have offered in a trade and let the fans decide whether their assertions are true ... Here’s a question for all those Detroit Red Wings supporters who keep saying, “Once the Wings are healthy, they’re going to go on a winning streak.”: When exactly is that going to happen? The way things are going, it probably won’t, so the Wings will have to scratch and claw their way into the playoffs along with all those other teams sitting seventh through 12th right now ... With seemingly so many goalies on the trade market, it could be worth starting a pool for predicting which netminder will be traded first and start a flood of deals in the crease: Marty Turco of Dallas, Montreal’s tandem of Jaroslav Halak and Carey Price, either of Nashville’s duo of Pekka Rinne and Dan Ellis, Minnesota’s Josh Harding, Boston’s Tim Thomas and Marty Biron of the Islanders are all the subject of trade rumours.

You don’t say?

“Trust me, I’ve done my share of shoveling in my day. It made for a pretty good winter job back home growing up. I had some successful days of shoveling and made some money at that.”

— Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby, who can afford to hire a crew for the block amidst the snowstorms which have hit the Eastern U.S.


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