There is a debate on whether or not NHL players should continue to play in the Olympics. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman is against the idea. Instead, he is favoring the notion of bringing back the World Cup of Hockey, even though it was not met with great success in either 1996 or 2004.
Bettman believes the NHL would be better off playing a tournament "at a time of year in places that we can control." He added, "it makes a whole lot more sense for us in terms of what we try to accomplish as the NHL. And we think it’s good for international hockey as well.”
My hope is that he changes his mind, after witnessing the Sochi Winter Olympics. The tournament play has been captivating for all, especially when Team USA battled Russia to a shootout. T.J. Oshie, the former North Dakota star and current St. Louis Blues standout, became a household name.
Hopefully Bettman read that 6.4 million people watched that game on NBS Sports Network. I'm hoping the commish is savvy enough to recognize the importance of social media, and that 900,000 tweets about the USA-Russia game were sent throughout the day.
Oshie more than doubled his Twitter followers in that one shootout moment (actually it was four out of six shootout moments). Bettman hopefully recognized that Oshie was sent a tweet from President Obama.
Not bad, eh?
This is not one of those situations where the President invites the Stanley Cup champions to the White House because it's tradition. He tweeted at Oshie because of the moment, because of the pride he felt and because he and his staff recognized what that did for our country. Oshie was being tabbed an American hero! That doesn't happen in the World Cup of Hockey, folks.
Do you know who won the first WCH event in '96? The United States did, with Derian and Kevin Hatcher, Mike Modano and Brian Rolston. How often is that mentioned when discussing USA hockey?
Bettman, and others against the idea of NHL players in the Olympics, must acknowledge that the more exposure the NHL gets, the more they get recognized. The more they get recognized, the more fans get to know them. And the more fans get to know them, the more likeable they become.
This is good for the game, and even better for the NHL. This league has the nicest and most down-to-earth athletes in sports, people just don't know them well enough. The Olympics are helping us do just that, and it might be the best P.R. the league and sport could get. Bettman shouldn't stand in the way and screw it up. He's done enough of that already.
Matt Shepard is the play-by-play voice of University of Michigan basketball, Eastern Michigan University football and the Detroit Lions television network. He can also be found on TV locally on Fox Sports Detroit and nationally on the Big Ten Network for college hockey and baseball.Learn more.