Nill and Lamoriello comfortable with NHL’s Olympic stance
Jim Nill didn’t know how to answer the direct question. “How many NHL games would he have played if he hadn’t first been with Team Canada at the 1980 Olympic Games?”
“I may not have played as many and I may not have played as soon,” said the general manager of the Dallas Stars, who wound up playing 524 games as a marginal NHL winger.
The reason this matters now? The NHL, which won’t allow its players to go to the Winter Olympics in South Korea, won’t allow its minor league players with NHL contracts to participate come February.
Nill, a former Olympian, is on board with this. So is Lou Lamoriello, a former college coach and former Team USA general manager, even though Lamoriello benefitted greatly from Sean Burke joining his Devils team after playing for Canada.
They think the NHL rule is fine. I don’t happen to agree.
“I’m comfortable with the league’s decision on this,” said Nill. “Take our team for example. We have a 23-man roster. If we get two injuries, and we need to call up players, where are we getting our players from? If our best (prospects) are with the Olympic team, what do we do then? It puts us in a bad position.
“It was different when I played. We were all amateurs then. Money was different. The rules were different. Just because something worked back then doesn’t mean it works now.”
“What if you send your best prospect to the Olympic team and he doesn’t play? Then what have you accomplished?” said Lamoriello. “You need to be able to be part of a players’ development. If you give that to someone else, you’re no longer involved.”
Among the graduates from preNHL Canadian Olympic teams who went on to have impressive careers: Glenn Anderson, Paul Kariya, Kevin Dineen, Burke, Dave Tippett, Paul MacLean and Joe Juneau. There’s lots more than them. Wonder what those players would say about their Olympic experiences and how their careers were changed because of that involvement?