By Jake Courtepatte
Winning hockey gold has long been equated with Canadian success at the Winter Olympic Games.
But according to Canadians, Sochi 2014 has a greater priority: security.
A Harris-Decima poll, published by the Canadian Press, suggests that 83 per cent of Canadians find it very or somewhat important that there be no security threats during the Games.
Comparitively, only 73 per cent of those questioned found men’s hockey gold to be very or somewhat important to success.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has been vocal about the league’s safety concerns of his 100-plus players heading to Sochi. However, he has pointed out that player safety is not his responsibility for the tournament, but that of the International Olympic Committee and Canadian Olympic Committee.
“This transcends us,” Bettman told the Toronto Star Monday. “Each country has to take responsibility for their citizens.”
However, Bettman says the main reason the NHL continues to send players to the Olympics is because an overwhelming number want to go.
But this does not mean players do not have concerns themselves. Some athletes are telling their families to stay home, including Canadian goaltender Roberto Luongo.
Other athletes are choosing to focus all their attention on their craft. Canadian bobsledder Jesse Lumsden told Humber News via Twitter that he was not concerned with safety, and was simply “excited to go.”
The COC is confident that they are doing everything possible to keep their athletes safe.
“We have taken into account all possible security breaches,” a COC representative told Humber News. “We’re confident that we’re as prepared as we can be.”
Students at Humber College surveyed on Tuesday shared the same safety concerns.
“Safety should always be a number one priority, especially with something like sports,” says culinary student Tim Duggan. “Winning a medal isn’t worth risking your life.”
Humber culinary student Richard Doherty says he feels the NHL should step in if security risks become too high.
“Ya, I feel like the NHL should have some authority,” says Doherty. “They pay the player’s salaries and keep them in a job.”
Although almost three-quarters of the over 1,000 Canadians surveyed said a men’s hockey gold was important to Team Canada’s success, the attention surrounding security at this year’s Games could very well mean the end of the NHL in the Olympics. The league and player’s association have yet to vote on future participation.
“The telephone survey of 1,015 Canadians was done between Jan. 9 and Jan. 13. The survey is considered accurate to a margin of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20,” CP24.com reported Tuesday.