This should've been a glorious moment for United States men's hockey, with Jack Eichel and Auston Matthews set to embark on their first Olympic games.
Instead, the NHL, IOC and NHLPA couldn't agree on feasible means to send the World's finest to the Olympic Games. While this did provide ample opportunity for amateur and non-NHL talent to make an impact on arguably the game's greatest stage, it also left us wanting more, culminating in a disastrous shootout defeat to the Czech Republic late Tuesday in Pyeongchang.
The USA men’s hockey team will not medal for the second straight Olympics https://t.co/zFavW85SXN— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) February 21, 2018
After a Brian O'Neill shot hit the post with just over two minutes remaining in regulation, most unbiased viewers could tell that Team USA's most realistic chance at victory had gone by the wayside.
The 2018 ragtag Americans did not lack speed, that much is certain. They frequently created odd-man rushes, especially with the wide rink per IOC regulations. Yet, they often lacked clinical finishers, which was more than evident in the 0-for-5 performance in the shootout.
This year's men's hockey tournament not only lacked big names, but the appropriate storylines to go with it. And yes, perhaps it's unfair to expect the NHL to pause their season down the stretch run to make way for another tournament with unfamiliar rules. It's also far away from home, opens players up to the the risk of injury, and breaks up team camaraderie. It is by no means convenient.
Oh man the crying kid in the US Jersey is heartbreaking. Someone should explain to him that Gary Bettman wouldn’t let our best players come.— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) February 21, 2018
But if we've learned anything for the 2018 Olympic men's hockey tournament, it's that the interest is severely lacking without NHL players. Therefore, the TV audience is down, and attendance is downright embarrassing.
This is not just about wins and losses. Americans and Canadians make up a massive percentage of the Olympic Men's Hockey television audience. Without the World's best, that's guaranteed to go down, even if diehards vow to watch every second of Olympic action.
Money talks, and as much as the IOC flaunts amateurism and competition as a strength, they will lose money on this tournament.
And on the other side, this is by no means a win for NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, who hopes to 'expand the game' worldwide without allowing his players to compete in the biggest hockey tournament in the World.
The 2018 Olympic Hockey Tournament is not a tragedy. There will be a winner, and an emotional medal ceremony. There will be parades and parties to celebrate.
Still, we can't help but envision the match-ups that've been lost due to the ignorance and ineptitude of those in charge. The Matthews to Eichel connection will have to wait until 2022.