The Olympics is about the best of the best.
Athletes from around the world who beat out their fellow countrymen test their skill and athleticism against the best from other countries to determine who is the best in the world at what they do.
When an athlete wears gold, nobody else can claim on that day to be better.
Well, except for hockey, that is. The world’s best players aren’t in PyeongChang. They’re in Montreal and Denver and New York and Toronto. And 27 other North American cities.
When Germany and the Olympic Athletes from Russia face off on Sunday for gold, they will do so with a massive caveat. The world’s best players are playing in NHL games and not allowed to compete from Olympic gold.
It’s because the International Olympic Committee and the NHL couldn’t reach an agreement for the league to take a break to send its players to PyeongChang to compete for their countries.
International Ice Hockey Federation chief (and apparent lover of international cuisine) Rene Fasel did his best to put a positive spin on the prominent void at the Gangneung Hockey Center.
“You don’t need caviar every day,” Fasel said at a Saturday news conference. “I mean, you can also live with leberkase and weisswurst, and yesterday was a day like this.”
The sausage references were in deference to Germany, which beat Canada on Friday and would most assuredly not be competing for gold in an Olympics featuring NHL players. Caviar in this instance would be Canada, Sweden, the Czech Republic or the United States.
Sunday will mark the first time since 1998 in Nagano that NHL players won’t be playing for gold. It’s been a bleak mark on the PyeongChang Games as the hockey tournament has gone on without Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin or Connor McDavid.
Games featuring non-NHL players worked in the past before the world’s best players were unleashed in international competition. But now that we’ve gotten a taste of the premium cuisine, going back to cold cuts has proven less than compelling.
“Not having the NHL is still a disappointment, but actually with the result yesterday, Germany going to the final, and the interest, I would say that in Germany nobody cares that the NHL is here or not,” Fasel said of Germany beating Canada in the semifinal.
“But what can we do? We have to do the best that we can do and promote the game of hockey, and yesterday the German-Canada game was something very unique and special.”
It’s a nice try from Fasel, who doesn’t have much choice but to put a positive spin on things. But it’s hard to argue that much of anybody outside of Germany or Russia really cares about Sunday’s gold medal game.
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