What if the NHL players don’t go to the Olympics?
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Olympic hockey looms on the horizon
The 2022 Winter Olympics will feature a wide range of interesting and exciting competitions. From figure skating and speed skating to freestyle skiing, snowboarding and curling, there is something for everyone – and contenders for Canadian medals almost everywhere. But, if we’re being honest, the average fan in this country is the most pumped up about a sport: hockey. Here are the latest developments to know for the men’s and women’s tournaments in Beijing:
We can’t be 100% sure the NHL players are going.
This is always the plan, and always the most likely outcome. But the deal between the NHL and the NHL Players Association with the world hockey governing body allows the league and players to bail out the Olympics if COVID-19 conditions make the trip to Beijing. impractical or dangerous, ”as the NHL and NHLPA put it when the deal was announced in early September.
Right now, for the most part, things look OK. The pandemic is relatively under control, nearly all NHL players are vaccinated, and teams are back to full arenas (at least where many fans are willing to attend). But this language – “impractical or dangerous” – leaves a lot of room for interpretation, and the league has never seemed thrilled at the idea of going to Beijing (the players demanded it). If anyone is looking for an exit ramp, they may already point out a few worrying signs. The Ottawa Senators have just suffered an epidemic that has caused their games to be postponed for a week, and cases of COVID-19 are on the rise again in the United States, where three-quarters of NHL teams live.
It’s also fair to wonder if all of the controversy surrounding China could become a factor in the final decision – perhaps something to tip the scales if the health situation looks risky. Human rights groups are calling for a total boycott of the Beijing Games, and Joe Biden said last week that the United States “is considering” a diplomatic boycott – a boycott in which a country sends its athletes but no dignitaries. Concerns spread deeper into the sports world last week after professional tennis player Peng Shuai disappeared for some time following her allegation of sexual assault against a former senior Chinese government official.
The key date is January 10. A final decision on whether the NHL players will compete in Beijing must be made by then. If the answer is yes, then so much the better – we can start to get excited about the Olympic debut of Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Auston Matthews and a bunch of other stars. If the answer is no, the men’s tournament will return to its lackluster form four years ago in Pyeongchang, where Canada’s leading scorer was Maxim Noreau.
To prepare for this possibility, Hockey Canada is organizing a ghost team to replace NHL players if necessary. In that case, current Team Canada general manager Doug Armstrong and his staff would hand them over. The NHL is ready too. He has produced two regular season schedules – one without an Olympic break, which he will broadcast if necessary.
Assuming the NHL players leave, Canada’s number one goalie position still goes to Carey Price.
The good old days when Canada had a choice between Curtis Joseph and Marty Brodeur, or Brodeur and Roberto Luongo, or Luongo and Carey Price, are over. The depth of the country’s guardians is not what it used to be. But Canada still has one of the best goalies in the world with Price, who won Olympic gold in 2014 and led Montreal to the Stanley Cup final a few months ago.
Price, however, is yet to play this season after seeking help with a substance use issue. In fact, he still hasn’t skated with the Habs. Its availability for Beijing therefore remains very uncertain. “If he steps up his game and wants to come and he plays at this level [he showed in the playoffs]he’ll be the guy again, ”Armstrong told CBC Sports’ Rob Pizzo. Otherwise, the top contenders are Jordan Binnington, who supported the Armstrong Blues in the Stanley Cup in 2019, Carter Hart of Philadelphia and Mackenzie Blackwood of New Jersey. For more of Armstrong’s thoughts on the Olympics and Canada’s roster, watch the video below.
The Chinese men’s team could be in trouble.
As the host country, China is entitled to a place in each event of the Beijing Olympics. But some people in the world of international hockey warn her starved of talented men’s hockey team will be crushed when they face Canada, the United States and Germany in the group stage. The top two, in particular, will be filled with NHL stars, and they’ll be incentivized to increase the score because goal differential matters in the standings.
Due to the pandemic, the Chinese national team did not have many opportunities to play internationally. But one indicator of its lack of quality is Kunlun Red Star, a Russia-based Continental Hockey League team with players (including 19 Canadians) who could be eligible to play for China at the Olympics. Kunlun has six regulation wins in 31 games this season. Another problem is that China does not recognize dual nationality. So if, say, a Chinese Canadian wants to play for China at the Olympics, he might have to give up his Canadian passport, at least temporarily.
The chairman of the world hockey governing body has warned that China could be removed from the tournament and replaced by Norway. A final decision is expected this week. Learn more about China’s difficult hockey situation in this article by Briar Stewart of CBC News.
The Canadian and US women’s teams prepare for yet another gold medal showdown.
The rival superpowers have met in five of the six Olympic finals in women’s hockey, and there is little reason to believe they will not face each other for gold again on February 16. Yes, Finland beat Canada in the 2019 world championship semifinals, and then almost shocked the Americans in the title game, but order was restored last summer when Canada reclaimed the title. world with an overtime victory over the United States
Canada and the United States are in the third stage of their nine-game Rivalry streak – a series of pre-Olympic exhibition games that started a month ago and run through early January. The Canadians won the first two before the Americans scored a 3-2 overtime win on Sunday in Kingston, Ont. They play again tonight in Ottawa, followed by three games in the United States in mid-December. Read the details of the schedules for female and male hockey players here.
Big clashes take place at the Canadian Curling Trials. The men play at 3 p.m. ET today, and the toss features a clash between Brad Gushue and Brad Jacobs. The former Olympic champions entered the event as favorites to meet in the final, and they both started 3-0. At the other end of the standings is defending Brier champion Brendan Bottcher, who is 0-3 and fighting for his life against Mike McEwen (2-0). Only the top three teams from the group of nine qualify for the playoffs. Women play at 8 p.m. ET. 2018 Olympian Rachel Homan scored her first victory last night, but at 1-2 she is still in a tough spot ahead of her clash with Tracy Fleury (3-0). The other high-profile clash will pit 2014 Olympic gold medalist Jennifer Jones (4-0) against defending Scotties champion Kerri Einarson (2-2).
One of Canada’s greatest divers has retired. Jennifer Abel, who announced her retirement today at the age of 30, has won 10 medals at the world championships and two at the Olympics. She won bronze at the 2012 Games in London with her former partner Émilie Heymans and silver in the same event this summer in Tokyo with Melissa Citrini-Beaulieu. Learn more about Abel’s achievements and future plans here. Read his first-person reflection on his career as a rare Métis athlete in diving here.
You are aware. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.