The correct answer to the question posed in the title of this post is “both,” obviously. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to have it all.
But let’s say for just a second that the Hockey Gods descended from their rink in the heavens and assumed human form (and yes, they actually do this from time to time). Then they tell you this: your country can win the gold medal in the Sochi Olympics, or your favorite NHL team can win the Stanley Cup this season. But not both.
I’m guessing 99 percent of you, at least, are going to quickly ask for Lord Stanley’s famous trophy. But after zipping myself into a flame-retardant suit, I’m going to take the unpopular stance and say that I would personally have to think very, very hard about going for the gold.
* Circumstances matter
At the risk of sounding like a spoiled Red Wings fan, I’ve seen them lift the cup before. Multiple times, in fact. And while I savored each one and would be overjoyed to see them do it again, I can’t exactly say it was a once in a lifetime experience.
In contrast, I’ve never experienced Team USA winning a gold medal in men’s hockey. I wasn’t alive in 1960 and was too young to know what hockey was during the Miracle on Ice.
Obviously this doesn’t apply to everyone. Canadian fans have cheered on gold medal squads before. Same goes for hockey fans in Sweden, the Czech Republic, and Russians above age 30 or so.
If you’re a fan of a less storied franchise than Detroit, you’re understandably going to give anything to experience a Stanley Cup victory, even throwing your own country under the bus. I don’t blame you.
But under my specific set of circumstances, the appeal of seeing something that’s never happened in my lifetime as a hockey fan is very strong. Especially because …
* This very well might be it for Olympic hockey as we currently know it
It’s not a secret that the NHL owners are seriously considering digging in their heels and not having the league’s players participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. Just ask Ed Snider.
(Also, considering what happened to our very own captain, Henrik Zetterberg, maybe some of you are saying, “Thank goodness.”)
That would certainly be a shame, as there’s nothing like the world’s best players all coming together in one tournament. The owners have their reasons though, and some of them are even sound. I’m sure none of it has to do with the fact that they don’t profit off of the Olympics at all. Wink, wink.
It’s not like I won’t watch Olympic hockey without NHL players or that it won’t be exciting. I remember my school wheeling TVs into our classrooms so we could watch Ray LeBlanc backstop a ragtag group of college and non-star pro players on their (ultimately unsuccessful) run at a medal in Albertville.
There’s an above average change that this could be the last time I get a chance to do that, especially since South Korea doesn’t have a contingent of its own NHL players to pressure the league because they want to play in front of their countrymen the way the Russians did this year.
There will be more Red Wings seasons, some of which will possibly even have less injuries than the current one. I have faith that Ken Holland and the Detroit brain trust will have the organization in contention for a good chunk of my adult life.
For reasons having nothing to do with faith, I can’t say the same about Team USA. This could be my country’s last real chance at a gold medal for the forseeable future.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that I answered the question that started all this differently than the rest of you. Just know that if you see Jimmy Howard sporting a gold medal on Sunday and the Red Wings are sitting at home in June, you can figure out what I told the Hockey Gods. And I’m sorry.