NHL done with Olympics: Lindberg

Joey Payeur

He wasn’t reading tea leaves or staring into a crystal ball.
It’s probable that Chris Lindberg wouldn’t call this bet into Las Vegas—and it’s not something he even wants to see come to fruition.
But the Fort Frances native, a former NHL’er and member of the Canadian men’s hockey team, made a bold prediction when it comes to NHL participation in the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in Pyongyang, South Korea.
“Honestly, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say the NHL owners are going to try and arrange it so that their players won’t be there,” said the 46-year-old resident of Calgary, who played for Team Canada at the 1992 Games in Albertville, France.
“It’s just my guess, based on what happened to John Tavares.”
That would be in reference to the N.Y. Islanders’s captain and member of Team Canada at last month’s Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.
Tavares, who was third in NHL scoring this season with 66 points before the Olympics, suffered a knee injury during Canada’s 2-1 quarter-final win over Latvia that will sideline him for the rest of the season.
The incident enraged Islanders’ general manager Garth Snow.
“Are the [International Ice Hockey Federation] or [International Olympic Committee] going to reimburse our season-ticket holders now?” Snow was quoted as saying.
“It’s a joke,” he added. “They want all the benefits from NHL players in the Olympics [but] don’t want to pay when our best player gets hurt.”
N.Y. Rangers’ leading scorer Mats Zuccarello, playing for Norway, also was injured during the Games when he sustained a non-displaced fracture in his left hand.
Lindberg sympathizes with the New York teams’ predicament.
“What if there would have been one other guy go down for the season?” wondered Lindberg, who played in 116 NHL games from 1991-94 with the Calgary Flames and Quebec Nordiques.
“Then you really would have seen some screaming from general managers and owners.”
That being said, Lindberg is an unabashed fan of having the NHL’ers compete for gold.
“I don’t know if I would get up at 4 a.m., even with a shot of Bailey’s in my coffee, and watch 10 out of 20 guys that were NHL or minor-league journeymen,” Lindberg said half-jokingly.
“We’re proud Canadians and we want to see Canada win, especially against the U.S. for those of us who were from a border town,” he noted.
“It’s just so exciting,” Lindberg continued. “To watch Duncan Keith and Sidney Crosby and all the players come together and play the way they did was unbelievable.
“Having the best in the world there makes sense.”
Lindberg, meanwhile, was curious as to the fate of Team Canada should the NHL pull the plug on its participation in the Olympics.
“I’m not sure how they are going to do it in determining what’s considered professional and what isn’t,” he remarked.
“Do we let minor-league players go? Do we send college players like the U.S. did in 1980?
“How do you make it a true amateur competition?”
Lindberg said he was under contract to the Hartford Whalers, who then loaned him to the Canadian national team.
“I was still making money, so really I guess I would have been considered a pro, too,” he noted.
Lindberg drew a comparison to other sports which send the best of the best to the Games—regardless of their official competitive status.
“Take a look at skiing in Europe, whether it’s downhill or cross-country or whatever,” he remarked.
“Those guys make a lot of money for winning World Cup events. Does that make them pro?
“I would say yes. But they’re still at the Olympics.
“You have to make some kind of income to eat, live in a house, and drive a car,” Lindberg reasoned.