Nobody will ever convince me that Pete Rose belongs in the Hall of Fame, for example. He knew the punishment for betting on baseball was lifetime banishment. He broke the rule, and therefore was banned for life. It doesn't matter to me if he had 4,000 hits or 40. He committed the crime, so he should do the time.
End of discussion.
Last week, I reiterated my long-standing opinion that the NHL shouldn't participate in the Olympics when the Winter Games are held overseas. My conviction was based mostly on the notion that the product would suffer with the travel and the time change. To me, it amounted to exposure the NHL wouldn't need.
And I was R-R-R-R ...
OK, I was wrong.
Hey, what do you know? Crow does taste like chicken.
Alarms should have sounded when I sided with Flyers owner Ed Snider. I should have known something was amiss. Nothing against Snider, mind you. You might say the billionaire chairman of Comcast Spectacor has done fairly well for himself. Actually, if he agreed with me, it was an indictment of him.
Let me explain. My opinion was based on scars left over from the 2006 Winter Games in Italy. They were a disaster. The players were fried when they showed up for the tournament, and it showed. The United States and Canada were eliminated in no time. The U.S. finished eighth. Canada was shut out three times.
It wasn't a good sign before the Olympics began this year that I needed to look up who won the gold medal in 2006. FYI: I covered the game. Sweden beat Finland, 3-2, in a forgettable game in a forgettable tournament in buildings that were half empty in a country that seemed indifferent about the Winter Games.
Here's what I remember: Tickets for the U.S.-Finland game sold for $4 on the street, which also happened to be the price of a glass of wine. Attendance figures were pure fiction, but there were about 6,000 fans in the building. Clearly, more fans were interested in the wine. They made the right decision.
Looking back, the hockey was bad because the players were bad. The U.S. goalies were Rick DiPietro and – who? – Robert Esche and John Grahame. The forwards included the likes of Jason Blake, Craig Conroy and Scott Gomez. They'll never be confused with Patrick Kane, Ryan Kesler and Phil Kessel.
That explains my 180-degree turn with a triple toe loop. There's no denying it eight years later. Olympic hockey in Sochi has been fabulous. For a few days, I was holding steady with the idea that the United States' win over Russia was a mirage, just one game that ended in dramatic fashion with a shootout capturing our attention.
But the entertainment continued.
Canada's win over Latvia was a terrific game. Apparently, that Ted Nolan guy knows a thing or two about inspiring his players. The Latvians blocked more shots in 60 minutes than Patrick Ewing did in 17 years. Forget the score, a 2-1 win for Canada. I was keeping body counts of players in the path of Shea Weber's slapper.
Finland beat a Russian team that was far more talented. The Finns came together and showed what can happen with a team united. If we throw objectivity out the window, it would have been better if the United States played Canada in a gold-medal rematch rather than today in the semifinals.
Really, though, the final four couldn't have played out much better. The U.S. has a bitter rivalry with Canada. It's much the same between Finland and Sweden. I picked Finland to win the tournament before it began. Solely for selfish reasons, I'm pulling for the Finns today.
The NHL still needs to determine whether it will allow players to participate in four years, when the Winter Games are held in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Commissioner Gary Bettman is certain to examine the issue from every angle. He needs to make a decision based on the greater good of the NHL, not what players and fans want.
Several genuine concerns remain, starting with injuries. Forwards Henrik Zetterberg and John Tavares are sidelined indefinitely, forcing their teams or their insurance companies to shell out $12.5 million in combined salaries. It's a steep price for players who were injured while playing for teams other than the Red Wings and Islanders.
Pyeongchang is 14 hours ahead of the Eastern Time Zone, so a game played at 7 p.m. will be aired here at 5 a.m. It's an easy fix. Set your alarms. The shootout format should be adjusted so players can't shoot twice until five different players are used. No player should be allowed to shoot more than twice. It's another easy fix.
On some level, whether players are exhausted when the regular season resumes or the league is without star players, the NHL is certain to be compromised. But there is no bigger stage for the league, often viewed as a small-time operation, than the Winter Games. I might as well say it: NHL participation is a must.
Then again, what do I know?