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Under-24 Olympics?

If the Olympic hockey tournament went to a 23-and-under style, Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle would be big pieces of Canada's next entry. (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

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If the Olympic hockey tournament went to a 23-and-under style, Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle would be big pieces of Canada's next entry. (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

Hello! You’re in THN’s mailbag zone. As such, I hope you’re prepared to either ask me a question, or read my answers to a selection of questions submitted to me. If not, get out now, while there’s still time!

Still here? OK, let’s get to it.

Adam, what do you think about hockey adopting soccer's age restrictions for Olympic participation (i.e. limiting participation to players aged 23 and younger)? It would reduce the burden on elite players to at most two Olympic tournaments and give veterans a mid-season break.
Jeff Wills, Sioux Lookout, Ont.


Jeff,

Yours is a very interesting proposition and one that would hold much appeal for people who want to see the Olympics return to its amateur athletics roots. But I doubt it happens for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, the Olympics financial juggernaut has given no indication they want to push out the world’s top professional athletes from its competitions. The NBA has fully embraced its stars taking part and, other than the issues the NHL has with the location of some of the Games, hockey’s top league understands its benefits as well.

Secondly, when it comes to hockey, we’ve already got something relatively similar to your suggestion: The IIHF World Junior Championship. Granted, you’d be extending the age of a world junior tournament by a few years under your proposal, but I’d say it’s more or less the same idea. No need to replicate it and have two similar tourneys once every four years.

Hey Adam, do you think Ryan Nugent-Hopkins should have spent one or more seasons in junior and bulked up to close to 200 pounds or more before he played in the NHL? Because now all the time he's getting injured. I know it was just a puck to the mouth he suffered recently, but again he was injured.
Joe Cordova, Burnaby, B.C.


Hey Joe,

No, I don’t think so at all. Clearly, Nugent-Hopkins has the skill to compete at the NHL level and may very well have had his development stunted by playing in a league below his abilities. Yes, he is very unimposing physically, but Jeff Skinner didn’t (and still doesn’t) look like Rod Brind’Amour when he first broke into the league either.

As you noted, no amount of squat-thrusts or lunges can prevent a player from taking a puck in the mouth. But the reality is Nugent-Hopkins is playing in an American League that always has been as much, if not more of a physical league than the NHL. As he develops his body in the next few years, this current stay in the AHL could very well help him survive and thrive when the NHL returns.

Hi Adam, thank you very much for keeping the columns going through the lockout. It is definitely a nice break from all the legal mumbo jumbo! My question is: why doesn't the NHL pay all of its salaries out its head office in New York?

It certainly seems like one of the reasons Canadian teams struggle to attract high profile free agents is because of the high income taxes in Canada compared to the U.S. This forces Canadian teams to pay a premium, such as Montreal did with Mike Cammalleri and Brian Gionta. I don't buy the excuses of the weather or the extra media scrutiny in Canada being the reason why players sign in the U.S. The climates in New York and Pennsylvania are really no different than those of Quebec, or Ontario.

As evidenced by yet another lockout, it all really comes down to the almighty dollar. Why not level the playing field and put some more money in the players’ pockets. What do you think? Cheers!
Ryan Kilfoil, Saint John, N.B.


Hi Ryan,

While there are some benefits to such an arrangement – which is currently employed by Major League Soccer – it would require an incredible adjustment by the NHL to convert to it from the present payment system. For that reason alone, it’s extremely unlikely to happen. But I want to address some other points you “don’t buy.”

The first is the notion that NHLers don’t really look at weather and media scrutiny when they choose where to play and that, instead, money is all that matters. I’d never argue money doesn’t play a large, if not the defining role in many decisions, but I absolutely believe there are players out there who, all other factors being equal, would prefer not to play in a media-heavy fishbowl environment like Toronto.

Same with the weather. In a salary-capped world where many of an elite player’s offers will be relatively similar, you can see why some would want to play in Raleigh (as did Jordan Staal) or Los Angeles (hello, Jeff Carter) over cold-weather locales.

But ultimately, I’d say a team winning consistently is one of, if not the biggest influence. Elite players flocked to Detroit for years not because of the scenery, weather or tax situation in Michigan, but because the Red Wings franchise is the class of the league.

Adam - Keep up the great writing. I enjoy all of it and the colorful tweets. I have this crazy idea and wonder if it could somehow be included by you in a column or mailbag.

In this lockout both sides have their propaganda machines rolling about how much they care about the fans which is obviously b.s. since there is no hockey now or anytime in the near future. If they truly cared the games would stop and there would be an agreement in place. They have once again lost my business and in turn saved me about $5500 dollars for this season. I am more than happy to spend that on a viable product to do something else with my son now and in the coming years since this is now a pattern and nothing else.

One thing rarely mentioned is all the team and arena workers who are either laid off or working less, which affects their standard of living. These people who make anywhere from, I assume, $30,000-$80,000 a year they are the ones being hurt the most. Especially at this time of year with the holidays, I can only imagine how they are getting by. It is now my belief these millionaires need to step up to the plate. I think there should be a clause in the new CBA that these people are paid what they have lost. This surely won't be that much money compared to what the warring factions are paid. They can easily do this with a 50/50 arrangement where it comes from the owners and from the players escrow.

They are turning these people’s lives upside down by acting like little middle school kids. Maybe I am wrong, but with their salaries they can live without pay for a year whereas the workers in question can most likely not survive more than a month or so in this economy. I would love to know your thoughts on this part that is rarely mentioned. Thanks.
Greg Hunter, Chicago


Greg,

I appreciate your passion and your perspective. If you read THN magazine, you’d see I wrote about this lockout’s awful effect on innocent bystanders. However, I don’t imagine we’ll see either side rush to throw money at them anytime soon.

As the players see it, their CBA offers already include giving back hundreds of millions of dollars to the owners (who have made zero concessions off the last collective bargaining agreement). Yes, in the grand scheme of things they’re extremely overpaid, but would you ask them to hand over even more when owners aren’t doing any sacrificing at all? That’s unfair.

As well, I’m sure you notice the league has made no pretense of claiming they’re locking out players for the sake of the fans and/or ticket prices as they did in the 2004-05 lockout. They are in this strictly for their own benefit. And to be honest, most if not all of them have other businesses that are very lucrative and could easily help them support hockey “little people” affected by this labor battle.

Instead, the league has left them out in the cold. To me, that says it all.

Ask Adam appears Fridays on THN.com. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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