While the NHL and IIHF reached an agreement to allow NHL players to participate in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, the future of NHL participation in the Olympics remains in doubt. While frustrating for fans, it’s understandable why NHL owners would be concerned about their players participating in the Olympics. After all, it’s their money invested and they get minimal to no return on that investment, though you could certainly argue that growing the game via the Olympics should lead to financial gains in the future.
Another concern is that players could potentially suffer an injury during games that have no bearing on NHL success, while others might be concerned more about the wear and tear of playing the extra games that could lead to future injuries and hurt a team’s chances of competing for a Stanley Cup.
Related to this concern is how the Olympic break will affect the athletes participating once they return to the lineup. Will there be a letdown after the high of representing their country? Will fatigue set in with the extra games played? Will players play through an injury for an important Olympic game and return to their NHL team hobbled?
I was curious if there actually is any evidence that participating in the Olympics could have a negative impact on a player’s performance after the Games. I decided to look at goaltenders first, since they tend to supposedly benefit the most from the rhythm of routine that might be disrupted by the Olympics. I looked at the 2009-2010 season to see if there was an impact on the save percentages of the goaltenders who participated in the 2010 Olympics. I was definitely surprised at the result.