Anze Kopitar's participation in the Olympics is one of the feel-good stories of Sochi.
The Los Angeles Kings star and his father, Slovenia coach Matjaz, helped his home country of Slovenia, enormous underdogs to even make the Olympics, reach the quarterfinals on the grandest stage.
Slovenia has a population of 2 million people, and fewer than 200 registered hockey players. And now, it has one big Olympic Games victory over Slovakia.
The NHL seems intent on stopping any future NHL stars from doing well in the Olympics.
“I would've been pretty upset if we qualify again and can't go,” said Kopitar, still in his Olympic euphoria after returning to the Toyota Sports Complex on Monday. “It was the first time we qualified, it was a lot of fun, and you want to do it again.”
You know, two weeks every four years is just such an inconvenience.
Unfortunately, you might not see hockey's biggest stars participate in the 2018 Olympic games in South Korea because of small-minded owners and NHL executives who are worried about potential injuries, ticket sales and building.
In other words, they're concerned about money, money, money.
The NHL wonders why it is never on solid footing, especially compared to the NFL, NBA and MLB.
The Olympics causes a two-week break once every 1,460 days, so arenas can deal with it. Corporate sponsors can deal with it. Players can get injured anywhere, and it's unfortunate, but it's part of any sporting event. Even curling. Kendrys Morales had an awful ankle injury from a home-plate celebration.
Let's not forget, the NHL lockout in 2012 lasted 119 days, and I believe the NHL survived. So what's two weeks for tremendous goodwill?
Apparently too much for NHL owners.
What would basketball in the Olympics be without LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant? Tiger Woods, the most recognizable golfer in the world, will tee it up in Rio as golf makes its debut in the Olympics in Brazil in 2016. You couldn't imagine it any other way.
How can the NHL not want the world's best players playing on a worldwide stage?
The NHL wants to trot out second-tier hockey players most people haven't heard of and gut Olympic hockey.
How very Grinch-like.
The NHL should embrace Slava Voynov representing Russia, the Olympic host, and Kopitar representing his native country. He's helping grow the game of hockey. The best players in the world will gravitate toward the U.S. The next Slovenian star could've been born through watching the Sochi Olympics, and helping the NHL sell tickets and jerseys in 10 years.
How many Slovenians might buy Kopitar's No. 11 Kings jersey online now that they're in a hockey state of mind?
Sidney Crosby's star power was raised even more by helping Canada to a gold medal, and yes, his star power is big but not big enough. Crosby walks around Los Angeles in the offseason and hardly ever gets recognized.
The U.S.-Canada men's game, in which the Canadians won 1-0 for the right to advance to the gold medal match, was surely the subject of much water cooler chatter. You think folks would care as much if T.J. Oshie, Crosby, Drew Doughty, Dustin Brown and Jonathan Quick weren't on the ice?
Let them play!
Funny that NHL executives are crying about potential lost ticket sales and such. Doesn't really wash when you think about the NHL lockout that lasted 119 days in 2012.
Everyone sure lost a lot of money then, too. But that was OK because it was a battle of billionaires versus millionaires. NHL players went overseas to play during that time.
Everyone lived to tell about it.
After the Sochi Olympics, hockey might be the next best thing in Slovenia. The Olympics should be super impactful, and that's not the only heartwarming story won over by the world's best hockey players skating on Sochi ice.
“We hope so,” Kopitar said of the dividends of the Olympics. “There are 150 registered players and seven rinks (in Slovenia). We hope we can expand the (player) base a little bit. Last year, qualifying was good. Us winning the Stanley Cup helped and us qualifying for the Olympics and doing well helped.”
So let the NHL owners and executives help by staying out of the players' way and letting them play in Pyeonchang in 2018.