The question was simple. Perhaps it wasn’t befitting the lighthearted, fun Pittsburgh Penguins practice that preceded it. And no athlete really wants to think about the future, certainly not the end. But what if the captain of Canada, the scorer of the golden goal in front of 20,000 fans in Vancouver and hero to 35 million anxious eyes glued to televisions across Canada, leader of the Pittsburgh Penguins, and signature face of the National Hockey League, Sidney Crosby doesn’t get to play in another Olympic games?
That was my question to Crosby on Tuesday. If the trending sentiment continues, and NHL players don’t get to play in the 2022 Olympics, does he worry that he’ll never get back?
Maybe Crosby misunderstood for a moment, or maybe his Christmas wishlist shined through. What if they postponed the Olympics instead?
“I think if there’s ever a chance it could be postponed, it would probably be in this scenario–when you look at the summer and kind of what had happened with that,” Crosby’s answer began. “So I guess there’s a slight possibility. If there were a chance that it’d be postponed, then we’d still have a chance to play in them. But I mean, that’s a slim one.”
Such discussions would have to be well underway by now. Postponing the Olympics would be like trying to turn around an 18-wheeler in a one-way alley. So, slim seem optimistic.
For many players, it is a once-in-a-lifetime chance. Especially for loaded squads like Team Canada, getting a spot is like a winning lottery ticket. The players didn’t go to the 2018 games because they were in Pyeong Chang. With the time difference and travel, the benefits did not outweigh lost revenues and hassles for the NHL.
Fortunately, the IOC decided to stage the next winter Olympics in neighboring China and watched fecklessly as the COVID-19 virus spread across and out of that country, regardless of government propaganda in 2019 and early 2020 that the virus was quickly contained or not harmful.
But those things are out of athletes’ control. The chance to represent their country is the honor of a lifetime. One can only imagine the swell of pride when
“So I mean, I’ve been fortunate enough to be part of two. I definitely feel for the guys who have missed numerous opportunities. It’s not something where the next year you can push it a couple of months,” Sidney Crosby said. “These are opportunities and experiences of a lifetime that you don’t get very many of as an athlete, and you might only get one.”
Crosby headlines the list of the players who may not be around for 2026. Though if he’s still playing in four years at 38-year-old, it’s easy to imagine Team Canada creating a heritage spot if he’s not one of the best 12 forwards in the game.
Patrice Bergeron will be 40.
And, of course, Marc-Andre Fleury, poised to get an Olympics start in goal finally, will be 40 in 2026.
We could go on, but the quick is: the 2022 Winter Olympics is the last chance for this golden generation of hockey talent to compete for a Gold Medal.
“And you know, it just might happen to fall kind of in your window. And if that doesn’t work out, it’s unfortunate,” Crosby said.
As much as some of us curmudgeons prefer amateurs in Olympic hockey, one more all-out-battle for gold between a handful of all-time greats who have defined the generation would be worth staying up or getting up at 4 a.m. It would be a worthy pause to this COVID plagued NHL season. Under the best circumstances, it could provide the best feel-good story and thrilling competition we’ve had in a long, long time.
But, those worst-case scenarios are more likely. It’s more likely that a few players will get breakthrough cases, become spectators in a far-off land, and potentially be quarantined there for weeks without the benefit of being a tourist.
There’s also the growing slate of postponed NHL games, too. When will those be played? The schedule is already packed full in March and April. Once players hop on the plane from Las Vegas to China in February, the NHL loses all control.
And it appears COVID-19, which has cost many people family time, jobs, and over 800,000 lives, will take yet another privilege from us. That insidious little bug appears ready to take not just the best hockey tournament in the world, but the last tournament with all-time greats Crosby, Malkin, Ovechkin, and the crowning achievement for Marc-Andre Fleury.
“It’s unfortunate” would be another classic Sidney Crosby understatement.