Even without NHL or (potentially) KHL players, Olympic hockey will still be worth watching – ESPN

Neither Russian goalie Sergei Bobrovsky nor T.J. Oshie of Team USA will be able to reprise their showdown from the Sochi Olympics and the upcoming Pyeongchang Winter Games. 

9:42 AM ET Will you care about the men’s Olympic hockey tournament if neither NHL nor KHL players can participate?

Greg Wyshynski: Admittedly, the Olympic men’s hockey tournaments that have involved NHL players have been absolutely extraordinary. Imagine the NHL All-Star Game, except instead of winning a big car after playing methodical exhibition hockey, the players are battling for national pride, Olympic immortality and playing with a ferocity not seen until the deepest levels of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

There’s just no replicating that, as anyone who saw the World Cup of Hockey will testify. The NHL players will be missed, even if I sympathize with the league in its battle against the abject greed and avarice of the International Olympic Committee.

In place of that unmatched elite level of play? Great stories and new heroes. The chance for a player like Linden Vey, out of the NHL at 26, to become an Olympic hero for Team Canada. The chance for Matt Gilroy, an NCAA star who last played in the NHL in 2014, to win gold for the United States and maybe earn his way back to the league. Or the chance for Ilya Kovalchuk and Pavel Datsyuk to win gold for … uh … “Olympic Athletes From Russia,” or whatever.

Therein lies the other big issue now facing the Games: that if there are no KHL players in the games, it’ll drain the talent pool even further. No Kovalchuk or Datsyuk or Vey or Gilroy or dozens of others who compete in the Russian league. Every nation in the tournament will be impacted. The quality of play and

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