While the world turns its attention to the Winter Olympics in Sochi, most NHL players are preparing for the two week break from regular-season hockey. For those non-Olympic players, the time off can be both beneficial and detrimental, depending on how the players spend their time. Some NHL players will be sent down to the AHL by their respective teams while others will qualify or be given the time to do as they see fit. With non-Olympic NHL players going in all sorts of directions during the Winter Games, let’s take a look at three aspects of the break.
Although a two-week break during the Olympics may sound cut and dry, the NHL’s rules make it much more complicated for some players. While the 149 NHL Olympic athletes are heading to Sochi to represent their respective countries, non-Olympians will be waiting to see if they will be getting time off.
First of all, with players having to report back to practice on February 19, the two weeks is more like 10 days for those who get the days off. More importantly, some players may have to spend the NHL break in the minors if they don’t fall under the agreement between the NHLPA and the league for players who get an Olympic break:
- For players who don’t require waivers, they cannot be sent down if they participated in 16 of the last 20 games or if they have been on an NHL roster for 75 percent of the time between October 1 and January 24.
- Recovering players cannot be forced to participate since no conditioning assignments are allowed until February 19.
On the other hand, teams can be ice cold and put veterans on waivers to send them down in order to save cap space.
For the non-Olympic players who get the ten-day period, there are plenty of positives. For instance, the break allows players to lick their wounds and let their bodies heal. The grueling NHL season is both long and rough, so any time off is welcomed with open arms by beat-up players. Secondly, in the middle of an 82-game season that includes a significant amount of travel, the Olympic break gives players an opportunity to spend time with their families.
Players can also use the 10 days to get things done at home that they otherwise couldn’t during the season, such as replacing mustang parts in their cars or fixing up the roof. While they continue to be paid, players can use the time off to go back to their alma-mater to work out or even take a vacation.
Just as in most parts of life, the bad comes with the good for non-Olympic NHL players. Many players have to deal with the disappointment of not being selected to play for their country on the world stage. And while being able to take a vacation is a pro of the break, it can also be a quick way for players to get out of shape and lose focus—two things that NHL coaches want to prevent at all costs.
The final con for players getting time off during the Olympics is the simple fact that many of them will be rusty when they report back to their teams.
So while non-Olympians from the NHL may be spending the break either playing in the AHL, vacationing in the Bahamas or even working out at their alma-mater, there are both good and bad aspects for coaches, fans and players to look at.