It hasn’t been a banner weekend for those hoping the NHL and its players will take part in the 2014 Olympic hockey tournament in Sochi.
First, there was IIHF president Rene Fasel on Hockey Night In Canada suggesting that “ego from some people in North America” was the main barrier standing in the way of NHL participation, adding, somewhat smugly, “I think Gary [Bettman] has no choice but to come to Sochi.”
And further down, when it brought up that Slovenia and Austria qualified:
Because Austria and Slovenia in Sochi means there will be no Italy. No France. And for the first time in 6o years, no Germany.
It’s not that those countries are hockey powerhouses whose presence would make for a more compelling tournament. They’re all fringe participants. None of them could have counted on bringing over a true NHL star to bolster their lineups in Sochi.
But they are economic giants compared to Slovenia and Austria. Any of those three, or even Great Britain or Japan who were in the mix recently, would have meant bigger television markets and greater marketing opportunities for the league.