If the Sochi Games are to be the last for the National Hockey League (NHL), then the world’s best players brought their Olympic curtain down in thrilling, but controversial style.
Canada brought the competitive curtain down on the Games in impressive fashion, capping an unbeaten run through the tournament by sweeping past Sweden 3-0 as they retained their title.
However, outside of Canada, the gold medal game is likely to remembered for the chaotic events surrounding the finish when it was announced that Sweden’s Nicklas Backstrom, who plays in the NHL for the Washington Capitals, had been forced to miss the final due to a failed dope test.
The ham-handed handling of the drug test, the way it was managed and announced, and Sweden’s fury about it, is likely to add further stress to an already tense relationship between the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) and the NHL, as the league considers ending its Olympic relationship.
“Our opinion is that IOC has destroyed one of the greatest hockey days in Swedish history,” Sweden general manager Tommy Boustedt said. “This can further jeopardize participation of NHL players in Olympic Games because I know that both that NHL and NHLPA [NHL Players’ Association] are incredibly upset about this.”
While NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was full of praise for the Olympic experience, the league has refused to commit to the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang as they consider ending their Olympic involvement after five Games.
Indications are that team owners no longer believe the worldwide exposure they get from the Olympic stage is worth shutting down operations for two weeks in the middle of the season and handing over their most valuable assets (the players) to the IOC.