SOCHI, Russia — Steve Yzerman was stuck in an elevator while the maple leaf flag was raised to the Bolshoy Ice Dome rafters Sunday.
The architect of Canada’s dominant Olympic hockey team was disappointed to miss that magic moment after the team’s unbeaten run through the Sochi Games to its second straight gold medal.
And though he’s stepping down as Hockey Canada’s Olympic executive director, Yzerman hopes he didn’t miss his last chance to see the world’s best players rewarded with gold.
“This is great for hockey,” Yzerman said. “We’re trying to grow our sport. The Olympics is the biggest stage worldwide, for any sport. I’m hopeful that the NHL stays.”
The NHL is thinking seriously about abandoning the Olympics, which has hosted the world’s best since 1998. For all the excitement, attention and phenomenal hockey in Sochi, several owners still seethe at their multimillion-dollar investments playing for free — and sometimes getting injured — while their arenas sit empty for three weeks in February.
The league and players’ union are working to stage a hockey World Cup in 2015, possibly lessening the impact. But most players believe nothing can replace the drama of the Olympics. The Canadians were brilliant. The Russians flopped under huge expectations. The U.S. team soared and crashed.
And while Canada skated away with gold in a 3-0 victory over Sweden on Sunday, the tournament’s MVP honor went to Teemu Selanne, the 43-year-old Finn who scored four goals in his record-tying sixth Olympics, captaining Finland to a bronze medal with two goals against the U.S.
Distance, time zones and lost revenue are obvious obstacles to the NHL’s participation at Pyeongchang, South Korea, in 2018, but the spate of significant injuries in Sochi won’t ease the owners’ minds, either. Islanders center John Tavares is out for the season with a leg injury. Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello hurt his hand playing for Norway. Columbus defenseman Fedor Tyutin will miss playing time with an injured ankle.