Like so many millions of avid hockey fans of all ages and all walks of life I was absolutely shocked the past week when the National Hockey League decided not to halt the 2017-18 season to allow their players to attend the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.
I cannot even imagine not having our Canadian team competing in this age-old and traditional worldwide sports competition, and representing our flag in the thrilling game of ice hockey that originated here on the outdoor rinks of our great nation so many chilly winter decades ago.
This ongoing feud between the NHL, their Player’s Association, and the International Olympic Committee has been boiling for a long time, and they claim that the final decision is not about the game, the people, the players, or the fans, but just a matter of money. Just like the magnificent Summer Olympics, the Winter Olympics are held once every four years, but the powerful and prosperous NHL team owners are not happy about shutting their regular season down for two weeks during the games as well as the insurance costs and risk of their superstars getting injured while proudly representing their home nations.
The 2018 Olympic Winter Games will play host to 88 countries (200 nations) competing in 98 events in seven sports and 15 disciplines, and each of these nations have always strived to send their best individual athletes and teams to participate in their chosen event. Of course the opportunity to win one of the classic Gold/Silver or Bronze Olympic Medals is the ultimate goal and dream of each and every athlete, but just the opportunity of being there and carrying the flags and uniforms of their homeland is certainly the ultimate never-to-forget experience and absolute chance of a lifetime. Over the years each and every one of these dedicated athletes from around the world have and always will give their supreme efforts to excel at their sport, while sacrificing countless hours of gruelling training, huge personal expenses, and precious time away from their families and friends.
Looking back to the past
The grand dynasty of what we now call the ancient Olympic Games began way back in the 8th century B.C. but when the now powerful International Olympic Association was formed in 1894 they would host the first modern Olympic Games in Greece. Along the way both the summer and the Winter Olympic Games have been held throughout the world and the Paralympic Games have also been added to the international competitions to give many more unique and special athletes the opportunity to follow the coveted Olympic torch.
All young boys and girls will always cherish their first memories of getting to play on a team or as an excited participant in all sorts of sports, wearing your first pair of hockey or figure skates, going for a round of golf with dad, joining the kids’ rocks program at the local curling club, running around the soccer pitch or the ball diamond and showing off our new club jersey, and on and on during those glorious days of our youth.
All this must never change, and among the biggest thrills will always be going on your first road trip proudly representing your town, getting a school letter as a member of the Broncs or Aces, hitting your first home run, and maybe even winning a little trophy, ribbon, pennant, or medal, which many of us seniors still proudly admire in our age-old trophy case or dusty ‘treasure chest.’
All sports, at all levels, from the most minor events to the highest international ranks should set their highest goals to give participants of all ages the exciting opportunity to have fun giving their best effort, to appreciate the amazing support of family and fans, and to realize that dreams and even occasional miracles can indeed come true….just ask Eddy the Eagle and the Jamaican Bobsled team, and so many others.
Sadly, it is getting more and more expensive to attend major sports events these days, but as avid and loyal fans of whatever game or event we may choose to attend or passionately watch and cheer for on television or at the rink or at the field, our most exciting and proudest moments will always occur when we witness our children, our team, our athletes, proudly competing for their community, province, and nation.
No matter what, that unique and exciting opportunity should never be denied to anyone, and hopefully, even at the highest levels of sports competition that none of those who are running the ‘big show’ will ever be allowed to ‘price out’ the free and keen spirit of choice and participation. Spring is really here, so just go ahead and have a great week, all of you.