Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The wounded soldiers of Commander Bettman

NHL GM’s must be hoping that this Olympic tournament comes to a fast and merciful end, the injury list grows on a daily basis now as key ingredients to many a Stanley Cup quest suddenly find themselves in need of medical attention.

So far in this Olympic Games we’ve seen Domenik Hasek last less than eight minutes in his first game, as a strained abductor muscle in his thigh area brought his Olympic plans to an end, and may derail those dreams for John Muckler in Ottawa as well.

Joe Sakic takes a stick to the face and fractures his cheek, now encased in a full cage he continues to play, but must be making the Avalanche brain trust nervous with each shift on the ice.

Edmonton casts a nervous glance at Italy as Chris Pronger continues to play on a damaged heel, one deflected shot away from further trouble and possibly an enforced rest from the NHL stretch drive.

Martin Brodeur limps off the ice after a perliminary game agasint the Czechs and you can feel Lou Lamoriello's stomach begin to form an ulcer. His money goaltender shakes off the injury, but in New Jersey they're probably wishing he'd head for witness reolocation. Having seen Patrik Elias injured early on in the tournament, Lou will be thankful when everyone is back on the plane homeward bound.

In Vancouver Dave Nonis must be afraid to turn on the television, Vancouver like the Senators has a fair amount of players donning their national colours in Torino, and today’s crashing of Mattias Ohlund into the boards must have left Nonis feeling a little ill as they helped the big Canuck’s defenceman off the ice. The latest report on Ohlund is possibly rib injuries. Nonis will be calling the hospital hourly like a nervous grandparent wondering about a favourite son.

There’s always a danger for injury when you have a high paced tournament compressed into such a short period of time. And while it’s not much different from the day to day NHL schedule in way, in that you never know when one of your stars is going to suffer misfortune, still most GM’s would rather have their hands on the reins of their big horses, letting them run wild in Europe must be making for many early mornings and late nights for the NHL’s General Managers.

Already the word has spread that the World Cup of Hockey in 2008 is probably not going to happen, what remains to be seen is whether the pros stay with the Olympic program after Vancouvers Olympic year of 2010. Many suspect that the NHL will try to back down from its commitment after Vancouver, a situation that will disappoint many hockey fans world wide, but make these anxious two weeks of hell a long gone memory for the leagues 30 General Managers.

While the risk of injury is something to be concerned with, HockeyNation hopes that the Olympic tradition will continue. Taking two weeks off every four years is not too much to ask forwhen it comes to the opportunity to showcase the game at such a prominent level.

Better planning of the NHL schedule in Olympic years might help in reducing the injury factor, the hockey tournament is one of the main highlights of the Winter Olympics, we should continue to participate with our best, for as long as our best wish to go.

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