DUCK U - OLY 301: Anaheim & The Olympiad

GAMEKEEPER ROBBY:

Hullo class. Me name is Robby, and I'm the Gamekeeper at Duck U...Okay, enough Hagrid-speak.

As the newest professor among the staff at Anaheim Ducks University, I felt like it would be inauthentic for me to speak authoritatively about our history, but our dean insisted that I had to suck it up [Editrix note: No joke. Those were my exact words - JN]. After some serious deliberation (read: 15 minutes with a Stone Cali-Belgique), I decided to explore Anaheim's role in the Olympics. This topic was of particular interest to me given that Rebecca and I managed to make it to Vancouver to see Team USA's opening round victory over Switzerland (sorry Jonas).

In our first lesson, an overview of the Olympics since the Ducks have had a franchise and take a possible guess at which current Ducks might make an appearance in 2014 in Sochi, Russia (provided the NHL lets them).

Since the Ducks' inaugural season of 1993-1994, there have been five winter Olympics with men's ice hockey.

Year

Location

Gold Medalist

Silver Medalist

Bronze Medalist

1994

Lillehammer, Norway

Sweden

Canada

Finland

1998

Nagano, Japan

Czech Republic

Russia

Finland

2002

Salt Lake City, USA

Canada

United States

Russia

2006

Torino, Italy

Sweden

Finland

Czech Republic

2010

Vancouver, Canada

Canada

United States

Finland

Over the past five Olympics, only six nations have collected medals. I don't know about you, but I find that sort of staggering - out of 15 slots, only 6 teams show up. Clearly, there isn't much parity on the international scale. Sweden and Canada lead with two gold medals each, although Canada also recorded a silver in the '94 games. Finland apparently loves the color bronze. I guess that explains Teemu's tan.

Later in the course, I will lecture on the specific games listed above. For now, this is just an overview of the Ducks broad impact on past games and a look into the future.

From a Ducks perspective, our penchant for star players has led us to be reasonably represented during the games. Franchise icons like Paul Kariya, Teemu Selanne, and Scott Niedermayer have all appeared in multiple Olympic Games, though not all were members of the Ducks at the time of their appearances. Most recently, the Ducks sent an NHL-best nine players (if you count juniors player Luca Sbisa, which I do) to do battle in Vancouver and wound up with the most medalists of any team at seven. The medalists are as follows: Gold: Neidermayer, Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf; Silver: Bobby Ryan and (then-Duck) Ryan Whitney; Bronze: Selanne and Saku Koivu.

Looking ahead to the 2014 Olympics, it's not close to a given at this point that NHL players will officially be allowed to participate. Until 1998, IOC rules (and subsequent decrees from the NHL) prevented NHL players from appearing in the Olympics. So while the past five games have seen heavy participation from NHL players, commissioner Gary Bettman has suggested that traveling to Sochi, Russia for the 2014 Games could be too much of a burden on players and teams. Bettman has maintained that the NHL suffers when Olympic games are played outside of North America as games are not played during North-American friendly hours (although the recent spat of Premiere Games in Europe would seem to throw some doubt on this reasoning). The owners lose revenue when the arenas go dark, even though the league still plays the 82 games in a tighter schedule. Both the PA and the owners are expected to use Olympic participation as a key negotiating chip when the current CBA ends after this season, as many players have a strong desire to play in the Games.

Personally, I think it's a huge mistake if the NHL decides to prevent its players from participating in the 2014 Games. With the continuing advancement of the KHL (and European leagues that many ex-NHL'ers defect to), it stands to reason that showcasing its players in the Olympics reinforces the notion that the NHL is the premier hockey league in the world. It would also likely lead to problems for several NHL teams, as superstars like Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin have already signified their intent to play in their homeland, with or without the NHL's consent. The Olympics give teams a much-needed break before the stretch run to the playoffs and are arguably a better use of resources than the All-Star Game. Sure, it creates a scheduling nightmare and yes, there is always the risk of injuries. But it's not like players can't get hurt at the All-Star Game (I'm looking at you, Jonas Hiller) and the players actually want to show up. There's probably even an argument to be made that some players would rather win a gold medal for their home country than hoist the Stanley Cup. Antagonizing your players - the reasons the owners have teams - just seems like a bad business decision.

Assuming that the NHL allows its players to appear in Sochi, here's my best guess at which current Ducks players and prospects will make the cut (though not all could be Ducks at this point):

Canada

Corey Perry

Ryan Getzlaf

Devante Smith-Pelly

USA

Bobby Ryan

Emerson Etem

Cam Fowler

Finland

Saku Koivu

Toni Lydman

Sami Vatanen

Switzerland

Jonas Hiller

Luca Sbisa

Slovakia

Lubomir Visnovsky

Russia

Igor Bobkov

What do you think students? Any other Ducks talent that could find their way on to an Olympic roster spot? With the exception of the Canadians, most teams are pretty open.

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