The NHL and NHLPA collectively agreed for players to not go to the Olympics. The risk was too great with the potential of a five-week quarantine if a player tested positive while in Beijing, and with so many games postponed due to the league’s own COVID outbreak, they will aim to use the scheduled three-week break to play some make-up games and lessen the load on the schedule later on in the season. Those reasons make sense, but when it comes to a player-by-player basis, there are certain ones that would have done so much more to be able to represent their country and play in the first best-on-best hockey tournament in a very long time.
Current NHL stars like Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews have yet to even attend an Olympics, let alone win one. But others that know it would have been their last chance to make the team like Boston Bruins’ Brad Marchand, was fairly vocal about the decision and was highly critical of it. Some guys just aren’t happy and are very disappointed, which makes sense.
One of those is the Minnesota Wild’s very own in Kirill Kaprizov.
“It’s always a dream to go to the Olympics,” Kaprizov said Tuesday. “It’s once every four years, so you work hard. You want to show yourself, you want to help your team win. It’s tough not being able to go.”
At the age of 24, Kaprizov will surely get another chance (hopefully) to play in the Olympics, but as a grizzled late-20’s veteran of the NHL and someone that will be already established enough to take the reins from an elderly Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin, to make the transition easier to the youngsters like upcoming Matvei Michkov or those of the same potential ilk.
Also, Kirill has already been there before and won the whole damn thing with Russia — or OAR — and scored the gold medal-winning goal in overtime. Kaprizov was able to star in his very own Disney movie.
This time, it would certainly be more special playing with current Russian NHL stars and to make his mark on the international stage after already joining the ranks with his Calder Trophy-winning season; instead of the corpse of Ilya Kovalchuk and the other guys that stayed in their home country to play professionally.
While he won’t be heading over to Beijing, he has his own slight concern at home in the NHL. The Wild have not played a game since Dec. 20, and their last win came all the way back on Dec. 9. Due to a handful of postponements, the Wild will be trying to play through a balance of rust and rest when they face the St. Louis Blues at Target Field for the 2022 Winter Classic.
Kaprizov isn’t so sure the long break will be beneficial for him.
“Sometimes these long breaks are helpful and sometimes it’s better to get out there and just play as many games as possible just to try to get back on the right track,” he said. “Overall, very important game and one that we definitely want to win.
“Me personally, I don’t like time off, too much time in between games. I like to get out there and keep in the rhythm, keep playing, so for me personally I’d rather have no break and keep going, but for others, I don’t want to speak out of turn.”
Of course the workhorse named Kirill does not like to take any long breaks. Other than what he can do for a lengthy amount of time on the ice, Kaprizov started this season out slowly and it took several games for him to really get a footing and back in the swing of scoring goals and leading Minnesota in scoring. I wouldn’t be shocked to see a similar thing but on a smaller scale, happen again once the Wild are back in action in January.
Also, it doesn’t help that they have already had their Jan. 10 game against the Winnipeg Jets postponed due to Canadian teams having their attendance restricted, so instead of having their finances hit, they will push the game until later, when they can have more fans again.
Let’s just hope and pray that all of this stuff will calm down in the near future so we can enjoy our favorite hockey team without the worry of future postponements or our stars not being able to play some international sports.