Nill and Lamor­iello com­fort­able with NHL’s Olympic stance

Ottawa Sun - - SPORTS -

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?

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GIAN­CARLO STAN­TON

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