With about a month to go until the start of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea, much of the focus has been on politics rather than athletics.
Compared to previous games, it seems the hype machine is a little slow to build this year and some suggest men’s hockey is a big part of that.
Since the 1998 Nagano Games, fans have been used to seeing NHL players suit up for their home countries. But with the league holding its talent back during the 2018 games, Team Canada, like other nations, has a roster of players currently skating in pro leagues overseas and in North American minor leagues. Many of them were part of the team that won the Spengler Cup hockey tournament in Davos, Switzerland over the holidays.
“I don’t recognize any of them,” said hockey fan Josh Roy looking over the roster about half an hour after it was announced.
Despite the presence of former NHL veterans like Mason Raymond, Ben Scrivens, Max Lapierre and Chris Kelly Roy and others, those visiting the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto Thursday afternoon were largely unfamiliar with the new Team Canada. But Roy said he doesn’t consider that a bad thing.
“That’s what I like seeing. I like seeing guys who aren’t household names get the exposure,” he said
“Different. I like different.”
Other fans Global News spoke with weren’t as excited for the competition.
“You want them to do well, but I don’t think I’ll watch. Not a lot of it,” said Nick Sawatzky.
“I don’t know if everybody’s going to be as captivated rooting for people that they’re not aware of who they are,” added Gary Becker.
Bob Stellick with the sports marketing firm Stellick Marketing Communications said people may be judging the hockey competition – and the Olympics overall – too harshly, too soon.
“The bottom line is, we don’t know who the skeleton guys are. We don’t know who most of the skiers are. The average Canadian fan watches the Olympics because it’s the Olympics and so I think they’re going (to watch),” said Stellick.
“There’s going to be compelling story lines if [Canadian athletes] do well.”
Competition at the Winter Games starts on February 8, the opening ceremony will be held on February 9. Hockey begins on February 10 with Japan and Sweden’s women’s teams playing the first game.
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