Craig Remsburg column: Let’s not take NHL out of Olympics

Henrik Zetteberg of the Detroit Red Wings is out for at least eight weeks of the NHL season after surgery for a bad back.

John Tavares of the New York Islanders is shelved for the season after injuring a knee.

Several other NHL players – including the New York Rangers’ Mats Zuccarello – came home from the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi with significant injuries.

No wonder some NHL owners are calling for an end to participation in the games, which has been host to the world’s best since 1998.

Zetterberg led the Wings in both goals (16) and assists (36) prior to the resumption of NHL play last Wednesday against Montreal.

With “Z” gone for at least the remainder of the regular season, the Wings’ chances of making the NHL playoffs for the 23rd straight season are in jeopardy.

To be fair, Zetterberg had back issues before the Olympics and sat out the month of December trying to get healthy.

He played in Sweden’s first game, though, before apparently re-aggravating the injury.

Tavares is another story. He entered Olympic play healthy, then injured his knee so severely he’s done for the season.

He, too, led his team in scoring with 24-42-66 figures, good enough for third in the NHL scoring race prior to the resumpton of play following the Olympics.

His absence will likely end any hopes the Islanders had of making the NHL playoffs this season.

Team officials are howling that they’ve lost their best player in order for the NHL to expand its prestige and marketing gains.

The Islanders stand to lose a lot of money with Tavares out both in regular season gate receipts and playoff profits, if the team were to make postseason play.

At first, foregoing future pro participaton in Olympic hockey in favor of going back to amateur play was enticing.

The NHL season wouldn’t be stopped for three weeks in the middle of the season and no pro players would suffer an injury, serious or otherwise.

But we’d ge giving up seeing the best hockey in the world. NHL players wouldn’t be able to play for their country, either, something all offered the chance do so in a heartbeat.

Perhaps the NHL should have some kind of insurance policy in which teams who lose a player for the rest of the season to Olympic injury would be compensated for the loss in some way.

Maybe some of the money would be passed on to season ticket holders who no longer will see its star player skate or their team make the playoffs.

It’s a huge stretch, to be sure. But, say Zetterberg was healthy entering Olympic play and he blew out a knee during the Games.

How would Red Wings fans react to the loss of their star player for the rest of the season? They wouldn’t be happy, to be sure.

But to shut down entirely the NHL’s presence in the Winter Games would be just a knee-jerk reaction. Injuries happen. You can’t get around them.

Let’s keep the NHL in Olympics hockey.

Craig Remsburg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 251. His email address is cremsburg@miningjournal.net.