Columnist image
Pierre LeBrun

TSN Hockey Insider

|Archive

TORONTO -- As the waiting game continues on an NHL decision for next year's Olympic Games in South Korea, three-time Olympian Zdeno Chara still harbors hope of a solution, even while clearly frustrated with where things stand.

"I think every player wants to be part of the Olympics," the Boston Bruins captain said Monday morning at Air Canada Centre. "It's one of the biggest stages that any athlete can participate in and compete in. It makes it so special when you have your best athletes all over the world competing against each other.

"Any time there's some sort of interference, it looks bad on the sport and it looks bad on the people making the decisions. We are at a point where people need to really sit down behind one table and find a solution, instead of always kind of being defensive I would say, or finding ways not to find solutions. That's what I'm hoping for and believe that it will eventually happen. Things will find a way and fall into place for the Olympics, for the sport and for the history of all the nations being in the same place; come together and we will see the best hockey players for their countries at the Olympics.''

Chara, who played in the 2006, 2010 and 2014 Olympics for his native Slovakia, certainly isn't alone in his sentiment as players grow increasingly frustrated with the standstill. A league source told ESPN.com Monday that there aren't any Olympic meetings currently on the docket. The league and Olympic organizers are at odds over covering costs for players, with NHL owners hesitant to break up a season.

But it's not just players who want resolution. Mike Babcock, who coached Canada to Olympic gold medals in 2010 and 2014, also believes in the importance of keeping the best players in the Olympics.

"I think it's really important," the Maple Leafs coach said Monday. "Getting your name on the Stanley Cup is something you dream about. Playing for your country in the Olympics, playing best on best, there's no better event, there is none. So, to have that opportunity I think is important. I think it's important to showcase your game every year [and] not just pick and choose when it's your turn or when you'd like to go. But, I don't own any teams.''

And what of the rising star players who have yet to taste Olympic action? Leafs phenom Auston Matthews wants his turn on the Olympic stage.

"I think it's important," Matthews responded Monday when asked about NHL players continuing to participate. "I think everybody likes the idea of the Olympics. For sure I remember always watching them growing up. Obviously to play in them would be a great honor. I've represented my country in the USNTDP [U.S. National Team Development Program], the world championships, the world juniors. It's always pretty special to put on your country's jersey. It's definitely very important for all the players.''

Bruins star winger Brad Marchand, a contender for the Hart Trophy this season as NHL MVP, played in his first best-on-best event in September, scoring big goals while skating on the top line with Sidney Crosby as Team Canada rolled to a World Cup of Hockey championship.

He's never played yet in the Olympics and would clearly be disappointed if robbed of that chance.

"Yeah, I think anyone would be," Marchand said. "For athletes to get themselves to that level where they can have the opportunity to play in the Olympics and then for someone to take that away from you, I don't think that's really fair. Again, that's a long ways away and there's more important things right now to focus on, and that's playing hockey."