VANCOUVER// If Canada's gold medal win over the United States marked the National Hockey League's final bow on the Olympic stage, they depart to a rousing standing ovation. With the NHL questioning their Olympic involvement and no agreement in place for future Games, the 2010 Vancouver Olympics may well be remembered as the last time ice hockey's very best faced off against each other for gold.
What a way to go if it is. The 13-day Olympic tournament delivered some of the most gripping and compelling hockey witnessed on any sheet of ice. With players in mid-season form, battling for medals that have grown increasingly important, the hockey produced by 12 countries was of the highest quality. But gushing reviews and blockbuster television ratings in Canada and the US are still not likely to convince NHL owners to immediately sign on for another tour of duty after their players made their Olympic debut in the 1998 Games in Nagano, Japan.
The decision on whether to take part in the 2014 Sochi Winter Games in Russia will be made when the NHL and the players sit down to negotiate their next collective bargaining agreement. "It's clear when you look at these Games from 30,000 feet, it's all good but you do have to take a step back on ground level and look at the impact on our season," the NHL commissioner, Gary Bettman, warned during the Games.
"It's naive for anyone to think the Olympics are great so let's go." * Reuters