Think this is maybe a bad idea?
With Lightning center Jeff Halpern sidelined possibly six months because of a knee injury suffered in the world championships, it's time to ask once again if it's such a swell idea for NHL players to play in such events. Halpern is not an isolated case. In 2006, the Vancouver Canucks briefly lost the services of two key defensemen because of injuries suffered in the Olympics. And the Ottawa Senators lost star goalie Dominik Hasek for the playoffs because of an injury suffered in those same Olympics.
You really can't blame the players. When asked to play for their country without pay in any international event, they're almost obligated to say yes. Should they refuse, they are viewed as arrogant and ungrateful and, worst of all, unpatriotic. The teams have no say in the matter, but you know owners, general managers and coaches of NHL teams are holding their collective breaths while their players are playing in a tournament that doesn't mean a thing to the NHL. They are forced to grit their teeth when they get that call in the middle of the night from a hospital in Prague or Moscow. What makes this one bitter is no one in North America, not even hockey diehards, cares about the world championships.
With all due respect to Halpern, whom the Lightning will sorely miss for the first month of next season, an injury to him isn't going to change the culture of NHL players playing in international events. But someday it's going to be Sidney Crosby going down with an injury. Or Alex Ovechkin. Or Ilya Kovalchuk. A franchise player is going to miss six months or the postseason because he was trying to help his country win an event that, in many cases, is pretty meaningless. That leaves two questions:
Is it worth the risk and, more important, do we have to wait until then to change anything?