By Jay Zawaski-
(CBS) — As you may or may not know, I’m a big fan of the game of hockey.
Every four years, when the Olympics roll around, I can divorce myself from my favorite NHL team and enjoy the games despite the obvious fear of injury to my team’s star player(s). Olympic hockey games feature the best players in the world playing at an extremely high level and playing to win. Unlike other Olympic sports, the parity among the dominant hockey nations (USA, Canada, Russia, Finland, Sweden, Czech Republic and Slovakia) ensures every game is competitive, and any team can win the gold medal.
The Olympic games are great exposure for the game of hockey and the NHL.
However, with fears of terrorist attacks threatening the safety of the athletes, the NHL should withdraw from the Sochi games.
The NHL’s Deputy Commissioner, Bill Daly, said in an email to the AP on Monday, “As of now, we do not doubt that all necessary steps are being taken by the Sochi Organizing Committee, the Russian government and the IOC to ensure the safety of the athletes and guests in Sochi. Obviously, if something significant were to transpire between now and February 9 that causes us to question that conclusion, we will re-evaluate. I don’t expect that that will become necessary.”
According to the New York Daily News, Russian security is on the lookout for “as many as four” potential suicide bombers, one of which they believe is already in Sochi. While Russia has put together a security force of more than 50,000 police and soldiers, the idea of an attack is beginning to seem like a forgone conclusion, instead of a minor possibility.
Terrorism Expert Daveed Gartenstein-Ross told the New York Daily News, “In terms of probability of a significant terrorist attack, these Olympics have the highest odds we have seen. What sets these Games apart is that Russia has faced a sustained campaign from Caucasus militant groups who have shown both the intent to carry out attacks and deadly competence at doing so.”
That’s enough information for me to pull the plug and keep the players out of Sochi. If the idea of withdrawing is even being considered, or whispered, the league needs to back out. Yes, it would be a temporary blow to the NHL’s public relations and perhaps to the game’s popularity, but it’s certainly better than the alternative — injured or dead NHL players.
Ideally, all athletes should pull out of the Games. I’m not placing NHL players’ over the other athletes at the games, but the NHL is in a unique position of power to withdraw all of their athletes with one swift move. It’d be up to the individual athletes of the non-team spots to withdraw on their own.
Athletes’ safety should be priority number one. After all, it’s just a game.