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THN.com Blog: Don't take the fun out of hockey

Jaromir Jagr and Mario Lemieux talk with an official. Will the NHL be able to send its stars to the 2014 Olympics?

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Jaromir Jagr and Mario Lemieux talk with an official. Will the NHL be able to send its stars to the 2014 Olympics?

When I was a kid growing up in London, Ont. – a city two hours southwest of Toronto, for those not from around these parts – hockey was life.

My last thoughts before my tired little mind drifted off to sleep concerned the game. And my first considerations upon waking up immediately focused on pounding down breakfast as quickly as possible so I could grab my stick and head out the door.

It was street hockey all the time. Whether it was 35 degrees in July or minus 20 in January, if there was another youngster willing to bear the elements, I was out there.

The reason for this, as I look back at its very essence, is simple: Hockey was fun.

And that’s why it was disheartening to hear Wednesday’s news that the NHL is considering not shutting down to allow players to take part in the 2014 Olympic Games in Russia.

For me, the Olympics are better with the world’s best involved. And not having the top players in the mix takes some of the fun out of the tournament.

I’m fully aware of the detriments that go along with allowing NHLers to participate, but the pros outweigh the cons – even if the only pro is the fact that watching best-on-best action every four years is…fun.

Too often, and this is yet another instance, the NHL puts business concerns - under the guise of “it’s good for the game” - ahead of the best interests of its fan.

And when it comes to the Olympics, 70 percent of fans say they want NHLers there.

Include me in that majority.

MORE IS MORE

While we’re on the topic of fun, wouldn’t shootouts be better if they were five shooters per side rather than the current three?

The justification when the shootout was introduced was the NHL didn’t see any discernable difference in how games were decided after three shooters when they looked at the numbers from the AHL.

Well, discernable difference or not, the shootout would be – and I’ll bet you can guess it at this point – more fun if it were five shooters aside.

It’s mind-boggling how such a simple concept can be missed time and time again.

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