As we all know, 2014 is an Olympic year, and the Winter Games will be hosted in Sochi Russia. The Men’s Ice Hockey Tournament will feature the best NHL and European League players in the world. A lot of them will be taking time away from battling for the Stanley Cup to chase Olympic Gold for their home nations. So, that begs the question, which is more important, and which trophy is more coveted by hockey players around the world?
There is no doubt that the Stanley Cup is the hardest trophy to win in North American sports, as well as in the hockey world. An 82 game season, and a minimum of 16 playoff wins gets your name permanently engraved on Lord Stanley’s Cup, and forever in hockey lore. The Cup is a unique trophy, in that all the winners are individually recognized, and each player gets a day to celebrate with it however they chose. Sure, the NFL’s Lombardi Trophy is pretty cool, and is played for in the largest televised sporting event in the world, but there’s something about hoisting that 35 pound Cup above your head that just embodies the definition of victory.
On the other hand, the sense of national pride that comes with winning Olympic gold must be unrivaled, especially after intense rivalry games like the USSR and United States, or the Czech Republic beating their former occupiers, Russia, in 1998, or even recently the border war between the US and Canada in 2010, with the neighbors to the North taking Gold. There is more dedication to a player’s country than to whichever franchise is employing him in the NHL, and that can’t be overlooked.
So, what do NHL players think on the subject? Some players, like Chicago’s Patrick Sharp, are undecided. “That’s tough to answer,” Sharp said. “It’s like asking who do I like better, my wife or my daughter.” A lot of players share that sentiment, and that’s understandable. A lot of the top stars from many nations have a hard time deciding, although a few pick one or the other with no hesitation. Check out this video from NHL.com to see some of their responses:
One thing to keep in mind is that not every NHL player gets a chance for Olympic Gold, only the top 25 or so from each nation are selected for that honor, making a Gold medal even tougher, even though it takes far fewer games to win. Also, the Olympics only come around every four years, limiting the chance for many players to get their shot. Teemu Selanne, at age 43, will be attending his 6th Olympiad, the most of any player in history, whereas Montreal Canadiens goaltender Ken Dryden won 6 Stanley Cups in his 9 years in the NHL. Keep in mind too, that not everyone on a Stanley Cup roster is a world class player. Guys like Tyler Kennedy, Sean Avery, Mike Rupp and Claude Lemieux all have Stanley Cup rings, but would never be invited to play for their respective nations when the Olympics roll around.
So, which is better? You and I will probably never know, but we’ll sure enjoy watching the quest for both trophies in 2014.
Scott Huntington is a writer, reporter, blogger, and long-time hockey fan. When he’s not watching hockey he’s doing research for CJ Pony Parts or spending time outside with his family. Find him on Twitter @smhuntington