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Oates doesn’t think NHLers belong in Olympics

Feb 14, 2013, 1:06 PM EDT

Adam Oates AP

Capitals head coach Adam Oates doesn’t think NHL players belong in the Olympics.

“You know what, I don’t. I don’t. My honest answer is no,” Oates said Wednesday, per the Washington Post. “Is it good for hockey that they do it? Great. But I grew up trying to play for the Toronto Maple Leafs, not Team Canada. Didn’t even know it existed.”

Oates’ opinion places him in the minority among players, fans and media. And his comments are a bit of a head-scratcher given his captain, Alex Ovechkin, can’t wait to suit up for Russia in Sochi next year.

Oates did admit that it was different for European players — “they grew up trying to play for their country, so it’s a different animal.”

But while playing internationally may not have been a major aspiration for North American kids when Oates, 50, was growing up, surely things have changed now with professionals participating in the Olympics and the growth of tournaments like the World Juniors.

For example, here’s Leafs prospect Morgan Rielly when he found out he made Canada’s World Juniors squad:

“As a kid growing up in Canada, you’re always watching the tournament around Christmastime and when you see that you’re going to get the opportunity to play for Team Canada it’s a great feeling. It’s just a dream come true.”

Oates, by the way, never represented Canada internationally; he reportedly declined invitations to focus on his pro career.

Related: How do Team USA, Canada, Russia look a year before the Olympics?

  1. misterchainbluelightning - Feb 14, 2013 at 1:13 PM

    I know this is going to upset a blogger here, but Oates is an idiot.

    • ravenscaps48 - Feb 14, 2013 at 3:38 PM

      Why? Because NHL Teams sign their players to extraordinary deals, have to stop their season for two weeks in the heart of the season, and live on a prayer that their players don’t get injured?… Yeah. He’s a real idiot

  2. dcfan4life - Feb 14, 2013 at 1:16 PM

    Odd comments since Oates never played for team Canada. However his current team has a lot of players who loved playing for their country. And does anyone else remember how bummed Mike Green was not being selected to represent Canada in the last Olympics?

    • mydadyourmom - Feb 14, 2013 at 1:45 PM

      Maybe he was, but he was definitely the only Canadian upset at the decision. He surely would’ve cost us the Gold.

    • nosefacekillah - Feb 14, 2013 at 2:06 PM

      Apparently Oates has “a lot of players who loved playing for their country” but few that love playing for the Capitals or Oates himself. It is sad to see this team in such a mess after the excitement they had generated not long ago.

  3. tmoore4075 - Feb 14, 2013 at 1:16 PM

    But NHLer’s didn’t have the shot at the Olympics before 98. So yeah you were trying to get to the NHL. Had he been able to go in 1992 would he have? Easy to say it now but wonder if he would have felt differently back then.

    • nothanksimdriving123 - Feb 14, 2013 at 2:02 PM

      He did have the option of the Canada Cup tournaments, such as the memorable one in 1987. Sadly, Canada had to make do with scrubs like Gretzky, Lemieux, Coffey, Messier, Bourque and so forth, but somehow they pulled together and won without him.

      • tmoore4075 - Feb 14, 2013 at 2:57 PM

        Something tells me a rookie who scored a whole 15 goals in 1986-87 wasn’t really being looked at by Canada. So wasn’t really an option for him. The reason I used 1992 was because he scored 217 points from 1989-1991.I think he would have been considered a little more then, than he would have in 1987.

      • nothanksimdriving123 - Feb 14, 2013 at 3:15 PM

        tmoore, good point, though the ’87 Canada team did have goalie Ron Hextall, who’d only played one NHL season. And there was also the 1991 Canada Cup that Oates was certainly prime for.

      • blackfoot11 - Feb 14, 2013 at 3:27 PM

        With all due respect, don’t compare the Canada Cup with the Olympics. The Canada Cup was only established so Canada could field their top players and they were the dominate team because of it. Most of the European teams sent there “B” teams to save their top amatuers (eventual NHLers) for the World Championships and Olympic games. Oates’ comment shows the generational and international hockey rule differences between today and when he played. My opinion is if a player wants to play for his country, he has every right to do so, but I can certain understand his point of view.

      • therealjr - Feb 14, 2013 at 4:17 PM

        With all due respect, you have no idea what you’re talking about. Canada Cup was open to professional and amateur players and every country participating fielded the strongest possible team.

      • tmoore4075 - Feb 14, 2013 at 4:21 PM

        To be fair it was a rookie goalie who went to the Stanley Cup Finals.

      • blackfoot11 - Feb 14, 2013 at 6:59 PM

        @the realjr, I said top players, which encompasses the best amateur and professionals that would play. The lack of success was due to lack of competition due various issues (rules, time of year, IIHF v NHL). The World Cup of Hockey had a short life as well. This is why the IIHF and the NHL allowed NHLers to participate in the Olympics starting at the ’98-Nagano games.

  4. duckmcnuggets - Feb 14, 2013 at 1:17 PM

    It’s good that he’s sharing these opinions now since they tend to carry more weight while you’re still a head coach.

    • manchestermiracle - Feb 15, 2013 at 11:01 AM

      Except that opinion loses its luster when your head coaching is sucking.

  5. soj83 - Feb 14, 2013 at 1:30 PM

    Oates and Ovechkin and Reilly are different generations. When Oates was growing up, to make the national team meant you weren’t good enough to make the NHL at ages 18-21. Ovechkin and Reilly spent their teen years watching NHL players play for their national teams. Oates is talking from his experience, and they are talking from theirs.

  6. travishenryskid - Feb 14, 2013 at 1:31 PM

    And Ovechkin just quit on his coach… Again.

  7. hockeywithdrawal - Feb 14, 2013 at 1:36 PM

    Eh, so what, Mr. Oates – I love seeing the NHL’ers in the Olympics, it’s just like the Junior WC’s meets the All-Star game.

  8. superschrec - Feb 14, 2013 at 1:46 PM

    NHLers in the Olympics is not right but it aint wrong either.
    If your signed to the NHL you should not be allowed to participate in the Olympics. They should use the players in the minor systems and palyers in college and juniors.
    This would give them more of an oppertunity to make a name for themselves and showcase their skills.
    NHL players are already the best of the best and if you love hockey why wouldnt you wan to see the kids that never get showcased like the NHL.
    Young kids + international ice and rules = GREAT HOCKEY

    • nothanksimdriving123 - Feb 14, 2013 at 1:58 PM

      super, That’s a good reason to watch the World Juniors and NCAA Frozen Four. Regular NHL is the best spread out over 30 teams, arguably too many. The Olympics is supposed to be the best of the best.

      • superschrec - Feb 14, 2013 at 2:16 PM

        exactly teh NHL is the best of the best, so why do they need to dilute the Olympics. These guys have trained their entire lives to play in the NHL.
        You still dont see all these kids in the WJ or NCAA – they are spread out so far and between college and NHL farm teams and international leauges like the Swiss and KHL leauges.
        Maybe the Olympics should only let retired NHLers or NHL legands play

      • nothanksimdriving123 - Feb 14, 2013 at 3:01 PM

        Good grief super, the Olympics (and WJC for that matter) don’t dilute the talent, they condense it! For the better countries, such as Canada, the US, Russia, Sweden, they take only the very best of the available players. So instead of being spread out over 30 teams, we see just a dozen, and in a matter of a few days that is down to half that. And every star who I’ve ever heard talk about it says it is a huge thrill to play for their country. I really doubt many kids grow up in Prague or Minsk hoping to someday play for San Jose or Dallas or even Montreal.

  9. digbysellers - Feb 14, 2013 at 1:51 PM

    He’s fulla bunk…reportedly declined invitations? Did Oates say that or is it verified? He should worry about trying to act like he knows what he’s doing behind the bench instead of saying anything about something he never participated in. It’s no wonder the Hershey Bears started playing well this season after Oates left freakin’ town. You’re not a good coach there fella!

  10. swizzler16 - Feb 14, 2013 at 1:56 PM

    “Oates, by the way, never represented Canada internationally; he reportedly declined invitations to focus on his pro career.”

    That, and he had to return some videotapes.

  11. withseidelinn - Feb 14, 2013 at 2:10 PM

    To me Olympic hockey is supposed to be each country’s best hockey players playing against each other. And the best hockey players from each country play in the NHL. It just makes sense that the league should participate in the tournament. I would not even pay half the attention I normally do to Olympic hockey if it didn’t include NHLers.

  12. illadelphiasphinest - Feb 14, 2013 at 2:20 PM

    Maybe the staples holdig his face in that position are applying too much pressure on his brain and causing him to spew stupid thing like this comment from his mouth. Or his piggy nose job is stuck to far up his own butt… Either way he’s an idiot for saying that.

  13. sunderlanding - Feb 14, 2013 at 2:23 PM

    I agree 100%. I love to watch NHL hockey. I don’t care about international hockey. It’s oversized rink and lack of fights. All Olympic hockey does in my mind is shut down the hockey I love for two weeks. You have All-Star teams that spend two weeks trying to find chemistry and if you’re lucky you’ll get one good game. The playoffs are way more fun to watch then anything the Olympics has to offer.

    • misterchainbluelightning - Feb 14, 2013 at 2:46 PM

      The only thing you have right here is the final sentence

    • sashe78 - Feb 15, 2013 at 6:53 PM

      If it where played other than during NHL season, I would love to watch Olympic hockey. The international teams are a bit better than NHL All-Star teams since most are returning Olympic teammates. I enjoyed the World Junior Championships a lot! If the Olympics re-created that every game, then great.

  14. govtminion - Feb 14, 2013 at 2:32 PM

    “…Then again, to be fair, I don’t see a lot of NHLers taking part in playing for the Capitals this year either, so what do I know?”

  15. steelersc - Feb 14, 2013 at 2:49 PM

    NHL is by far the best league in the world with the best players of the world! But I think that if one of these players gets the opportunity to represent his country and take a olympic medal by the way-why not? Many NHL players love to play for their country and they also love the bigger rinks and the more louder fans!

  16. letsgopens8771 - Feb 14, 2013 at 3:05 PM

    It would be a crying shame if the NHL didn’t participate in the Olympics. If they don’t, I’m not watching. I think this is bullcrap.

  17. pdmjr - Feb 14, 2013 at 4:20 PM

    It used to be for amateur athletes. I liked both USA miracles on ice. Never would have happened if pros were used

  18. sergeikremlin - Feb 14, 2013 at 4:50 PM

    I think the real story here is how much Adam Oates looks like Ray Liotta from GoodFellas.

  19. acieu - Feb 14, 2013 at 5:05 PM

    Adam concentrate on your hockey team not something that you have no control over. You might try getting them to play now as they sort of suck. Where is Jon Cooper when we need him? The Caps screwed the choice of head coach up badly for this dufus.

  20. arbruins - Feb 14, 2013 at 8:00 PM

    The Olympics should be a show case for the amateur talent. I do not agree that pros should be allowed to compete in the Olympics. In the 80’s, we were upset with the talent that Russia was sending to the Olympics, why should we be doing the same thing we were complaining about. Give it back to the kids, win or lose…

    • manchestermiracle - Feb 15, 2013 at 10:58 AM

      The Russian players have always been pros. The gold in 1980 was the first the U.S. had won in twenty years due to Eastern Bloc dominance using pro players that would have started in the NHL if allowed by their countries. The current system acknowledges this and is much easier to implement than trying to ascertain who is really an amateur and who isn’t. Bring your best, paid or not.

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