A big story this week, as the World Hockey Championships continued in Germany, was an article posted on the IIHF website by director of communications Szymon Szemberg.
It’s called “Saying No to Your Country,” with the subhead: “Too often players forget what brought them riches and fame.”
As you can imagine, it comes off sounding a bit over the top and stupid, going after players like Sidney Crosby, Henrik Zetterberg and Nik Backstrom for not suiting up for their respective national teams once they were out of the playoffs.
First of all, the World Championships is a bit of a joke in that you never get the best players available to come out. When the tournament happens in the same year as the Olympics, it really looks like the “second tier” competition that it is.
Szemberg says there’s no way a 22-year-old like Crosby could be too tired to play in the Worlds. Lets break it down: Crosby has played in 201 games in the past two years including this year’s Olympics – roughly 35 more games during the same timeframe than Ilya Kovalchuk, who is playing for Russia.
Not only that, but he scored a pretty big goal for Canada in the important tournament this year.
Listen to this garbage from Szemberg:
“Tired is a miner who works in a damp pit in Miktivka, in the Donetsk Plateau in Ukraine, who never sees daylight and who provides living for a family of five in a modest two-room apartment. That is tired. Tired is a divorced mother with two young kids who double shifts as a nurse assistant and cleaning lady to make ends meet.”
His list of “excuses” from players who turned down their country’s invitations (100 to 120, says Szemberg) is just as ridiculous. Here are a couple of the real gems:
-I am injured (…but had my team advanced to the next round of the playoffs I would have played)
-I don’t want to leave my family. Three weeks is an awfully long time away from home.
-I have no contract for next season. If I am injured, my career is in jeopardy.
Yeah, belittle a guy for making a decision based on wanting to spend time with his family. The IIHF should be embarrassed that something like this is on the website and therefore representative of the views of the entire organization.
The latest development here is that Hockey Canada has now formally complained to the IIHF about Szemberg’s article. Later in the day, IIHF president Rene Fasel apparently called Sidney Crosby's agent and apologized. Pat Brisson says Fasel sounded sincere - but there are other reports that he approved the article before it was posted, so who knows.
Maybe the NHL should stop sending players for a year – then they’ll realize how lucky they are that anyone comes out.