NHLers: International Men Of Injury

With Alex Ovechkin added to the list of players who have suffered an injury that required/requires surgery or rehabilitation, it’s time to bring back up everyone’s favorite question: why are we sending NHLers to international play when the risk of serious injury is so high and (as of right now) there is no compensation to the NHL teams?

Credit: USA Today Sports

The amount of pride the players feel when they put on their country’s colors is  simply unfathomable, and it more than answers the above stated question. But from a financial/hockey ops perspective, the cost may be too high for some teams.

Last summer, the Hurricanes faithful held their collective breath as Eric Staal was waiting to be examined for a knee injury suffered in the 2013 World Championships. Though he was able to play this season, he was not the same, and speculations have gone around that his knee injury may have been worse than previously stated and may still be a problem for him today.

Olympics: Ice Hockey-Men

In the Sochi Olympics, the New York Islanders’ John Tavares was felled by a knee injury as well, effectively ending his season. Isles GM Garth Snow was incensed about the lack of repayment from the IIHF and IOC, but his anger fell on deaf ears as no changes have occurred in the international injury protocol.

Caniacs have also seen, or rather heard, of Andrei Loktionov going down with what is “a very serious shoulder injury”. Regrettably there isn’t much more info than that, but it is an injury with implications for the upcoming 2014-15 NHL season and it will be brought up in negotiations about participation in the 2018 South Korea Winter Olympics.

And of course, there is the injury to Alex Ovechkin. Now what do the Caps, Canes, and Isles have in common? Neither made the playoffs this year. Each lost their captain to international injuries for varying amounts of time. Correlation may not equal causation, but it is definitely worth the attention of someone with the power to do something about it.

I’m not saying these teams missed the playoffs because of these injuries, after all Ovechkin’s injury just occurred a week ago, but it will be interesting to see what kind of play we see from these players in the coming seasons.

Feb 18, 2014; Sochi, RUSSIA; Russia forward Alex Ovechkin (8) loses his balance on a breakaway against Norway in a men's ice hockey playoffs qualifications game during the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games at Bolshoy Ice Dome. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

Personally, I love seeing NHLers in international play. But I hate seeing them get injured. An ideal situation would be the insertion of a compensation plan for the NHL teams that lose players, but I doubt that will happen as that would require money, and no one seems willing to part with that these days, no matter what it’s for.

At the same time, I don’t think it’s smart to take players out of international play altogether, after all it is a unique experience that they hold in high honor. In the end, I think the players will continue to play internationally, and more will be injured, and there will be more “outrage” as GM’s/Owners/whoever will complain to the media and again, nothing will change.

I hope I’m wrong about that last bit, but I’m just going on what I’ve seen. Hopefully the IIHF will settle on a plan to appease NHL GM’s and we can end this discussion before the next Olympics.

Got an opinion on the matter? Leave a comment!

(All photos from USA TODAY Sports)

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