Evgeni Malkin to be Barred from Competing in the Olympics?


Over the course of his nine-season NHL career, Evgeni Malkin has established himself as one of the premier players in the sport of hockey.

That being the case, he’s emerged as one of Russia’s best talents as well, sitting behind only Alex Ovechkin in the conversation of his home country’s best player.

Despite Malkin’s stellar career – which has seen him rack up two scoring titles, one Hart Trophy as league MVP, one Stanley Cup and a Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP (to name a few) – a new proposal submitted to the Russian parliament would ban the elite centerman from competing in the upcoming 2018 Olympic games.

The proposal, put forth by Russian lawmaker Yegor Anisimov (per ESPN.com) advocates for barring Russian athletes from competing in more than two Olympic games, so as to allow younger athletes to get their chance to shine on the prestigious international stage.

Anisimov’s proposal is driven by a desire to avoid situations such as the one that occurred at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, wherein figure skater Evgeni Plushenko (a four-time Olympian) entered the games knowing full well that his injury concerns could force him to withdraw – which they eventually did.

His withdrawal left Russia’s team at a notable disadvantage, while other younger athletes who would’ve relished the opportunity to compete watched from afar.

While the proposal is admirable in its desire to give Russia’s younger athletes a chance to participate in the heralded international competition, the ban would have vastly different effects depending on the sport.

For sports such as figure skating, wherein  younger athletes are simply not given a chance because veteran competitors like Plushenko remain in the spotlight due to their seniority, a change is arguably needed to level the playing field.

Hockey is an entirely different case, however.

The talent discrepancy between hockey players is much more notable, and more easily quantifiable, than in the case of figure skating, as hockey’s inherent structure of statistical tracking allows us to more easily compare different athletes – and thus allows us to see that players such as Malkin, Ovechkin, and Pavel Datsyuk are considerably better than many of their countrymen.

Barring these players from competing for their country in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang would not only be a disservice to the country’s top athletes, but to the team as a whole.

Perhaps it would be admirable to give younger players a shot at an Olympic gold medal while the elite veterans watch from the stands, but seeing as no other country is proposing such a rule, the odds of an inexperienced group of young Russian players defeating a star-studded roster from Canada or Sweden are beyond slim.

Luckily for Malkin and co., it seems unlikely at this time that the proposal will be approved. Many athletes (some of whom now serve as Russian lawmakers) have been critical of the idea.

However, the proposal is still being considered by the Russian parliament, with an official refusal yet to be announced.

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