Olympics, outdoor games turning Stanley Cup into second-place trophy

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The Stanley Cup is being devalued but the very league it represents, Al Morganti says. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

The often incoherent, grammatically challenged ramblings of a man who has watched too much sports, listened to too much music and devoured too many club sandwiches.

The Stanley Cup needs a lawyer.

Not an agent, mind you, but a Law and Order-type lawyer … and maybe a crew from the Special Victim’s Unit to investigate the crime being committed against The Cup.

And the criminal won’t be hard to find. In fact, the criminal is still holding the Cup hostage, and we’re not talking about the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Stanley Cup needs a voice to stand up and sue the National Hockey League for abusive behavior. Somebody has to give the Stanley Cup a voice as the NHL continues to step out and cheat on its most valuable commodity.

For many, many seasons, year in and year out, the undisputed MVP of the National Hockey League has been the Stanley Cup. No matter how big the star -- Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Bobby Orr, Gordie Howe, Sidney Crosby -- none one was more valuable to the NHL than the Cup.

It is the most treasured trophy in North American sports, and it is the reason so many North American-born players get their faces stitched, teeth mashed and tendons torn … all in the pursuit of getting their name engraved on the Cup.

It has been the ultimate goal – and that value has been tarnished as the NHL continues to sell its soul, and devalue the very trophy that has made its league and its playoffs so special: the Stanley Cup.

In the matter of the next few weeks, the NHL will engage in another couple of special outdoor games at Yankee Stadium and Dodger Stadium. If you think you already saw the Outdoor game when Detroit played Toronto on New Year’s Day, you did.

Now, the league has added more games, which translates into more cash. Shortly after that, the NHL will take a two-week break so that its best players can compete in the Olympics.

It is agreed here that the Winter Classic in the States, and the Heritage Classic in Canada have turned into something very special. And an outdoor game once a year in each country is a cool concept that has been a spectacular success.

But it has now come to the point of piling up the games, and the special feeling of the game has turned into something that has nothing to do with the heritage and roots of the game, and everything to do with money.

Giving credit where credit is due here, the marketers have been brilliant to the point where you have to wonder if a franchise landing an outdoor game isn’t as good as winning a playoff series. Come and get your outdoor game jersey, knit cap, alumni game tickets. Come and spend your money.

Come and take your mind off the real regular season, and the quest for the playoffs, for the Stanley Cup.

But none of that is as problematic as stopping an NHL season to once again compete in the Olympic games. You might have been able to make an argument that going to the Olympics when the games were in Canada (Vancouver) or the United States (Salt Lake City) was somewhat reasonable – but even that is dangerous ground.

What you have right now is a league that is basically acknowledging that it needs to shut down so that it’s best players can go compete in the best hockey tournament in the world.

And that is the problem.

The best hockey tournament on earth is the chase for the Stanley Cup, and that does not change every four years. The best hockey tourney in the world is the best of seven, or best of five, or best-of-whatever wars waged between NHL teams to get their names on the Cup, not a gold medal around their necks.

This year, with the games in Russia, it is particular dopey for the NHL to shut itself down to compete in the Olympics. And it says here that the Russians have already won.

In polite terms, the NHL was lady-slapped by the Russians to shut down for the upcoming Olympic games. The suggestion here is that the Russian stars were going to leave their teams no matter what, just to play in the Olympics.

So?

If that happened, don’t let them come back. And the same would go for any country, be it the U.S. or Canada or Norway.

It is understandable that a player would want to compete in the Olympic games, but these games are played during the NHL season, and this league should not be shut down for somebody else’s tournament.

You want to play an international tourney? Have the NHLPA and its players put one together in the summer.

Oh, you don’t think there would be so much interest in hockey later in the spring or summer? You mean when the Stanley Cup finals will be played?

So, this year, whatever teams play for the Stanley Cup will have to play second fiddle to the Big Show which has already taken place in Russia. That’s what happens when you let your league be treated like the junior varsity, and you turn the Stanley Cup into a second-place trophy.

The NHL has the world’s biggest diamond in the Stanley Cup, and it’s falling all over itself for the costume jewelry of fabricated “classics” and medals to be handed out in Mother Russia.

Nuf Ced

Al Morganti is a member of the WIP Morning Show (94.1 FM) weekday mornings from 5:30 til 10 and a hockey analyst for Comcast SportsNet. His twitter handle is @nufced.

Al Morganti is a member of the WIP Morning Show (94.1 FM) weekday mornings from 5:30 til 10 and a hockey analyst for Comcast SportsNet. His twitter handle is @nufced.
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