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TOFTE… It has been a week since the Olympic ice hockey tourney came to a conclusion, and I can’t say that my disappointment over the Team USA losses has lessened any, but I’m not feeling as bad as I did last weekend. Rather, I have had a week to reflect on the Games, and I must say that to see a short tournament featuring the best, literally the best players in the world is nothing short of phenomenal. It was utterly fantastic. And my feelings about the Canadians and the game of hockey notwithstanding, they may have assembled the best team, at least the best defensive team, in the history of the games.
Does their victory represent some kind of supremacy in the game worldwide? Well, there is no doubt that they are at or near the top, but I still can’t admit that a one-off tourney is indicative of who the ultimate best is. Stuff changes and adjustments get made in a series that don’t normally happen in a single-game elimination format. They are pretty damn good though, eh? Is there anything I would change? As the Games lingered on, the question of NHL participation in the future came up over and over again. Here is what I think.
I think it is time for the NHL to announce that they will be a permanent partner of the Winter Games from here on out. Yeah, I know the logistics of where and when the games are going to be, the time zones, and so on make for a logistical nightmare of sorts for all involved. The Games play havoc with the NHL regular season sked and all that. But these games are for a competition of the world’s best in a given sport, and probably about 90 percent of them reside in the best league in the world. I have heard chitchat of a return to true amateurs, and while interesting, this would be like going from Champagne to beer mid-game. That won’t cut it—we want the best we can get.
In addition, I have tired of Commissioner Gary Bettman and his wishy-washy approach to this question every four years. In my view, Bettman, probably from his childhood forward, has lived in a world where everything is a negotiation. He would yank a marble out of the game in the sandbox if he thought it could get him an edge in something later on. The players like to go, the players want to go. But in between each Games, we have to watch Gary twist and contort over whether the league will allow its players to go and compete.
I can tell you why Bettman wouldn’t immediately embrace this. It has to do with the burgeoning idea of a World Cup of Hockey. I can also tell you that his 30 bosses would like the Games better if they could find a way to get a cut of the action. Put an end to this, Gary—the fans want NHL participation and the players are honored by it. Step forward with the IIHF and the IOC and announce this. The hockey world will embrace it…
THE IOC SUSPENSION of Swedish forward Nicklas Backstrom for a doping violation before the gold medal hockey game prompted me to dig into the matter a bit more. When I saw that the item in question was the OTC remedy Zyrtec-D, it raised my eyebrows a bit. I know there to be two versions of this: the one that contains pseudoephedrine and the one that contains a variant of it. I thought that for certain Backstrom and Team Sweden officials would be aware of the regulations pertaining to this, but still, Backstrom tested positive for elevated levels, and right before the biggest game of his life he was suspended.
Stranger yet is that the current regs were developed to accommodate the possibility of daily usage by athletes who really needed to use the medication, as opposed to those who were using it for ergogenic effect. Did Backs and his people just make a simple mistake, or was Nicky “loadin’ up”? And a bigger question that most of us around the game don’t want to ask or know the answer to is, how much of this might be going on in the show? Of course, I hope the answer is that it isn’t a problem. I don’t want doping to drag the game into the same mud that baseball has been in the last 30 years. Google up “Pete rides bikes” and the story of Nick Backstrom—a more reasoned reaction. Great read…
THE HHH METRODOME HAS been demolished and leveled to the ground. I have some questions about this. Let’s start with the years-long battle royal to get a new stadium approved. It is no secret how the long, bitter fight unfolded and finally came to a successful end in 2012. It is also no secret that opponents are still simmering to an extent. Add fuel to the fire with the legal battles from out east involving Vikings owner Zygmunt Wilf and some partners he allegedly jacked out of some money, raising questions about the Zygster’s integrity. The courts out there found in favor of the partners last fall, throwing some possible wrenches into the new facility’s financing.
It appeared, at least to me, that the Wilfs were doing what they could to minimize press exposure in the Metroplex. The story was in and out of the news cycle quickly. There was some minor blowback between factions, and the Vikes’ dismal season was winding down without hope of a postseason. Stories hit the press that the gambling component of the funding wasn’t producing the desired results, and that some of the amenities were going to make the structure’s cost exceed the bill’s revenue provisions. The Vikes’ season came to a merciful end, and the beginning of the end for the Dome commenced.
In a mere 59 days, the structure was brought down and finished off as a multi-use facility. It is finished. I’m not a grand conspiracy goofball, but the question begs to be asked. I know the crews had to get the site prep underway as quickly as possible, but here it is: It seems to me that someone wanted to get the Dome on the ground as soon as possible. Why? PEACE
Marc Elliott is a free lance sports opinion writer who splits time between his hometown in Illinois and Minnesota.