Opinion: The Olympics should allow pro athletes to compete

Sidney+Crosby+challenges+Patrick+Kane+during+the+US+vs.+Canada+game+at+the+2014+Winter+Olympics+in+Sochi

CBS Chicago

Sidney Crosby challenges Patrick Kane during the US vs. Canada game at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi

Aiden Spizz, Staff Writer

Pro athletes should compete in the Olympics, as exhibited in the controversy surrounding ice hockey at the Winter Olympics this year. Ice Hockey has been an Olympic sport since the 1920s, and has appeared in 24 Games.  Professional hockey players have played in the games since 1998. However, in February, when the Olympics were held in Pyeongchang, the National Hockey League did not allow their players to participate. This has sparked much debate about whether NHL players should or should not be allowed to play in this international event.  There are many pros and cons of them playing in the Olympics.

There are many benefits of NHL players being able to participate in the Olympics.  Without NHL players, there isn’t as much talent.  The NHL is considered the best hockey league in the world, and it contains about 950 players, who play at one point every season. Without the 1,000 best players from different countries, the entertainment value will never be as great.  This would affect many countries as there are 17 countries represented in the NHL, such as Canada, the United States, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Slovakia, Germany, Denmark,  Austria, France, Australia, Latvia, Slovenia, Norway, and the Netherlands. Americans and Canadians account for about 70% of NHL players. Competing in the Olympics would allow these nations to likely win 6 of possible 10 medals. “I do think [professional athletes] should be allowed to play in the Olympics because it’s so entertaining for both the fans and the athletes,” said freshman David Weiner.  “Also, they get to experience the Olympic atmosphere.  The players get to play with different players in the league, not just the players on their team.” Olympic athletes always say competing is a great experience, whetherthey win or lose.  Especially with the short careers of hockey players, they may not have many chances to get to the Olympics because it’s only once every four years.

On the other hand, there are many cons if NHL players were to play in the Olympics.  There are already many injuries in the NHL, and, in order to win the gold medal, a team must play six to seven games. This large number of extra games can increase the amount of injuries. If there were to be an Olympic break for the NHL season, it would be in lieu of the annual All Star Game. However, the All Star Game break was four days, while a break for the Olympics would have been at least 16 days. That is a great lay off, and would extend the NHL season by about two to three weeks.  Currently, 1,271 games are spread over seven months, and there is still the postseason after. If they were to take a break for the Olympics, the NHL season may become too long. “I think [NHL players] should be able to represent their country and play the sport they are committed to,” voiced freshman Josh Rosen.  “The NHL should definitely have an Olympic break.” However, NHL players work hard, and all of their practice hours should go toward winning the Stanley Cup, not the Olympics.  Also, an Olympic break would mean the NHL would have to take all of February off, so the season may become much longer than it needs to be.  These are just a few of many cons of have professional athletes participate in the Olympics.

Overall, the NHL should allow their athletes to participate in the Olympics.  Seeing some of the most talented players in the world play with people from other teams would be greatly entertaining.  In addition, fans of the NHL would love to see extra games of their favorite players representing their countries. The NHL could start playing more games per week, or start the season earlier in order to fit in an Olympic break to solve for the issue of an extended season. The NHL should definitely consider allowing their players to participate in the Olympics during the 2022 Winter Olympic Games, which will be held in Beijing.