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Slovak GM: ‘We don’t understand’ why Isles are keeping Visnovsky out of Olympics

Feb 7, 2014, 6:39 PM EDT

Lubomir Visnovsky Getty Images

On Friday, Slovakian Olympic GM Otto Sykora expressed confusion as to why New York Islanders GM Garth Snow isn’t allowing defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky to play in Sochi.

From the Toronto Sun:

“If it’s possible he can play and he says he’s okay, he can play, I really don’t understand why he not can play,” Sykora said at Slovak Point in the Adler train station following a media conference with Slovakian defenceman Zdeno Chara.

“If he is injured, we accept this. If he say he’s not injured and he can play and (Snow) say we don’t let him go, we don’t understand this.”

Sykora said he planned to talk to Snow on Friday night. Sykora said the Games are big deal to Visnovsky, 37, since this likely will be his last chance to play at the five-ring circus and the Olympic tournament is a big deal in Slovakia.

“For Lubomir Visnovsky this is last chance to play for national team,” said Sykora. “If he not play, it’s not good for him. He is same than Zdeno Chara and Visnovsky, big here in Slovakia.”

Visnovsky missed 46 games this year with a concussion, but returned to action on Jan. 27 and has played five straight games with no setbacks. The Isles have been using him extensively, as well — Visnovsky’s played at least 19 minutes in every game since returning, including 22:08 in his first appearance (a 6-3 loss to Boston).

Back in January, Snow stated he and the club wouldn’t grant Visnovsky his release for the games and yesterday, he confirmed it.

“We just don’t feel comfortable letting him go,” Snow told Newsday.

Not having Visnovsky would be a tough pill to swallow for Slovakia, a country with only 13 active NHLers and already down the services of one — Marian Gaborik, who was ruled out by Columbus on Thursday as his broken collarbone has yet to fully heal.

  1. 950003cups - Feb 7, 2014 at 6:46 PM

    Consider this the final notice that the NHL will be pulling out of the 2018 Olympics.

  2. kicksave1980 - Feb 7, 2014 at 7:22 PM

    Snow knows more about his players than we do, but I don’t think it’s right for him to not let LV play for his country.

  3. davebabychreturns - Feb 7, 2014 at 7:34 PM

    Sorry, he’s played five straight games and they won’t release him?

    That is bush league.

    If they don’t think he is okay to play why has he been in the lineup?

  4. bsaures - Feb 7, 2014 at 7:39 PM

    I personally dont have a problem with it in this case. LV has been out for over 3 months with “concussion” symptoms but make a miraculous recovery a week and bit before the olympics :/ hmmm

    • 19to77 - Feb 7, 2014 at 8:06 PM

      Only problem with your skepticism is that he’s played five whole games for the Isles leading up to the break. The fact that he played over 19 minutes a night for five games proves he’s not rushing back – he’s obviously able to play, or the Isles wouldn’t have made the decision to play him. There’s no “miraculous recovery” here. The Isles themselves chose when he was put on IR and when he came off. So there’s no way to frame this that doesn’t make Snow and the Isles look like they’re being selfish – because they are. If he’s able to play in the NHL, he’s able to play in the Olympics.

      • rbbbaron - Feb 7, 2014 at 8:14 PM

        Ummm, what’s to hold the guy back from lying to the doctors so that he can get himself back in the game? And it does happen…

      • bsaures - Feb 7, 2014 at 9:32 PM

        Ya 5 games after missing 46 (over half a full season) its not fair for a team to loan out a player who makes 4.75 million dollars a year that they dont believe should be going.

        Injuries do happen and a guy fresh off a major concussion is much more likely to get hurt again.

      • 19to77 - Feb 8, 2014 at 12:15 AM

        So what’s your argument, rbbbaron? That he lied or somehow forced the Isles to let him play five games to convince everyone he was healthy enough to go to Sochi, then let them freeze him for the Olympics without complaint? That he lied to professional medical staff but then just let them declare him unfit to play?

      • rbbbaron - Feb 8, 2014 at 4:38 AM

        It goes like this: it’s not hard to fathom that a guy, who didn’t really want to play for the NYI organization in the first place, might try to fake it in effort to make himself eligible for what’ll likely be his last opportunity to play alongside his countrymen in a major intl competition. What were his chances of making the Slovak team if he hadn’t suited up before the games in Sochi? Nil. If Lubo wanted to have any chance of being able to play in Sochi, he was going to have to get a few games under his belt.
        In the world of hockey injuries, concussions are a different animal. It’s easy to spot a limp or a guy grimacing in pain from an injury to his extremities; it’s not as easy to recognize a guy feeling dizzy or having a headache– if it’s not severe to the point of incapacitating, then you more or less have to take the guy’s word for it. And even if Lubo’s symptoms had truly subsided and he didn’t need to fudge it with the doctors, concussions have shown themselves to be persistent in that guys who come back from them are at a significant risk of relapsing, Johan Franzen being the most recent example.

        This is all just speculation: in the end, if it’s true what Snow said about team doctors not wanting Lubo to play in the Olympics, then that’s that and all of us armchair quarterbacks can shut up…unless someone wants to accuse Snow of lying or the doctors of being incompetent? (Or being selfish? How dare they keep his long-term health in mind while they have to pay him millions regardless of whether he’s suiting up or sitting at home because he’s just relapsed)

    • rbbbaron - Feb 7, 2014 at 8:12 PM

      I thought the same thing. It’s unfortunate for Lubo that he won’t have the chance to play with his countrymen, but come on– the timing of the recovery looks suspicious, especially if it’s true what Snow said about the team doctors not wanting Lubo to play in the Olympics.
      As much as everyone would like to see the best talent from each country compete in Sochi, the team that’s paying your salary (also while you’re out with an injury) ought to take priority, and it’s not really looking like that’s the case for a player who was reluctant to report to NYI in the first place…

      • japachu - Feb 8, 2014 at 10:48 AM

        You can’t really lie about concussion symptoms and get away with playing 5 games. If you’ve ever been concussed you would know. It’s not a broken bone or a strain that you can work through the pain. Also he was named to the roster on Jan. 7th and his first game back was the 27th so your theory doesn’t really hold up there either. Snow is just being a pain the neck he should let his player’s play. I didn’t know we lived in Soviet Russia. The guy has played 5 full games with no set backs. He should be allowed to go play for his country in the Olympics one last time.

      • rbbbaron - Feb 8, 2014 at 11:08 AM

        “You can’t really lie about concussion symptoms and get away with playing 5 games.” Tell that to Dan Boyle and those football players who just sued the NFL.

        “Snow is just being a pain the neck….The guy has played 5 full games with no set backs.” Lubo himself just informed the Slovak GM that he isn’t fit to play (source: Puck Daddy blog)

    • joey4id - Feb 8, 2014 at 11:11 AM

      If a player isn’t in IR then what right does a GM have to prevent a player from representing his team. The league agreed to suspend the schedule to let the players participate.

      “The players wanted to play, and the league agreed.” – Ed Snider

      • rbbbaron - Feb 8, 2014 at 12:09 PM

        “what right does a GM have to prevent a player from representing his team” I’m willing to bet if you check the guy’s contract and/or CBA, you’ll see that the GM has every right to do that.

      • joey4id - Feb 8, 2014 at 2:30 PM

        I did.,Couldn’t find amything indicating they can if a player is not on IR. What did you fond?

      • rbbbaron - Feb 8, 2014 at 2:58 PM

        You did what? Check the CBA and player’s contract? I doubt you read the latter, and if you read the former, then maybe you could point us to the relevant sections?

      • joey4id - Feb 8, 2014 at 3:13 PM

        Don’t be an idiot. I didn’t go through the contracts. I went through the CBA. Are you saying the there is a clause in Visnovsky’s contract that would permit his GM to prevent him from going to the Olympics?

      • joey4id - Feb 8, 2014 at 3:36 PM

        Fast forward to this year, and you have to wonder if the league and the players might agree this time on taking a pass on Sochi if that were an option.

        It’s not, but it does explain why the NHL and its 30 owners feel somewhat helpless amidst all the concerns over these Winter Olympics in Russia and the terrorist threat hanging over them.

        There’s not a great deal, after all, the league can do about it.

        “One of the principal reasons we go to the Olympics is because the players want to go,” said NHL commissioner Gary Bettman in an interview with The Star on Monday. “Nobody forces players to go to the Olympics. They go because they want to.

        “For the purposes of the Olympics, we as the NHL are invited guests. We take a break in our season and relinquish our players to their federations. While they’re there, the federations are the principal points of contact for the players.”

        There really is no role for the league, in other words, once the 100 or so NHLers journey to Sochi, even if there is a significant problem that disrupts the Olympics, such as a terrorist attack.

        “This transcends us,” said Bettman. “Each country has to take responsibility for their citizens.”

        This, of course, has long been one of the NHL’s beefs with participating in the Olympics. League officials get no say in the conditions or how the tournament is run, or any special standing or privileges.

        The NHL just provides most of the prime talent for the men’s hockey tournament. In a situation like this, with many players voicing concerns over security in Sochi and choosing not to bring their families, that leaves the NHL with little or no control.

        http://www.thestar.com/sports/sochi2014/hockey/2014/01/28/sochi_2014_nhl_players_drive_olympic_participation_bettman_says_cox.html

      • rbbbaron - Feb 8, 2014 at 3:37 PM

        “Don’t be an idiot.” Good so you have the relevant sections of the CBA for us? =)

        Do yourself a favor and google “sean monahan 2014 world junior championships”

        It was nice knowing ya

      • joey4id - Feb 8, 2014 at 3:43 PM

        yes! I have the CBA. What’s your point?

      • joey4id - Feb 8, 2014 at 3:47 PM

        Sean Monahan! Really! How is this comparable? He’s a junior player playing for an NHL team, and the NHL team doesn’t want to loan him to the junior team. Don’t compare apples and oranges. Is Visnovsky a junior player wanting to go to the WJC?

      • rbbbaron - Feb 8, 2014 at 4:02 PM

        ^ fail

        gotta admire your persistence tho

  5. LampyB - Feb 7, 2014 at 11:15 PM

    I love olympic hockey, but you guys are retarded for not siding with the Isles on this one. Calling his employer ‘bush league’ for not allowing him to play in the olympics when they pay him millions to play in the nhl. And he’s injured all but what 5 games this season?

    Honestly if vis was smart he would sit this one out regardless of the teams wishes simply because its his employer who pays him millions.

    How much does he make playing for his country? This is his career, it’s not a bush league you dumb ass.

    • 19to77 - Feb 8, 2014 at 5:02 AM

      Yep. Everything comes down to money. Always and forever. Just forget what the Olympics represent to athletes’ pride. Nah, throw that right out the window. Dolla dolla bills, y’all. Except that’s not how actual people work. You know, out there in the real world. Money is A motivator, but not THE motivator. Might be hard to understand, but just because someone makes millions of dollars doing something doesn’t mean the one writing those cheques owns his soul. You’re right, the Olympics aren’t a career, or even a job at all. They’re a chance to represent your nation. It’s a matter of pride, not cash – and no matter how much of the latter someone makes, this once, maybe twice in a lifetime opportunity is special and not quantifiable in money terms. Try to think a little bigger. There’s more to the world than what you get paid to live in it, dude.

      • rbbbaron - Feb 8, 2014 at 9:24 AM

        Question: if Lubo or any other player under NHL contract gets injured in the Olympics, who picks up the tab while that guy is sitting out of NHL games he would otherwise be playing?

        You’ve missed the point: no one is contending that Lubo would like to represent his country and that it’s a matter of pride, camaraderie, whatever. That holds true for practically any player, but especially for those who are faced with little/no financial risk personally. Lubo is 37, under what is likely the last sizable contract of his career with a team that he could more or less be indifferent to playing for (given his past and the present as it doesn’t look the Isles will be competing in the second half of April), and this is likely his last chance to take part in such a competition. For Lubo, it’s a no-brainer. For guys like Stamkos, Koivu, Sedin, and many others who have significant contracts in front of them, they do face some (but not much) risk personally if they come home as damaged goods: the value of their future contract could be less (in the case that their injury is persistent) or they might miss out on a playoff run (whether their team is in a playoff position or competing for a position). But in the immediate, all of the financial risk is borne by their NHL employer– correct me if I’m wrong.
        When someone else is legally obligated to pick up the tab if something goes wrong, it’s easy to admonish those “greedy” bastards for acting in the interest of their team. If the players themselves had skin in the game (i.e. player gets injured in a non-NHL game and NHL team doesn’t have to pay the salary during the time that the player has to sit out), you’d be seeing different behavior. See: moral hazard.

  6. bcisleman - Feb 8, 2014 at 11:32 PM

    We don’t know all the facts. NHL teams tend to be very shut mouthed about this stuff and the Isles especially so. I have to admit that its a bit odd that Lubo is able to play for 5 games before the break but not during the break. If the Isles wanted to be really selfish, they would have kept JT & Vanek out. JT is a much greater asset and Vanek promises a big trade return. I am guessing there’s more to this than meets the eye.

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