It may not be a full-blown international incident, but the New York Rangers have agitated many in the hockey-loving country of Canada when they decided that they would not loan Alexis Lafreniere to Team Canada for the upcoming World Junior Championships.
Hockey Canada announced Thursday that the Rangers would not allow their first overall pick in the most recent draft to participate in the tournament. While many understand the rationale, many Team Canada fans were not very pleased with the decision.
— Th3 l AnD 0n1y (@Th3_l_AnD_0n1y) December 5, 2020
There were many others that also voiced their displeasure through social media and sports talk radio. Here is a sampling:
-Then Canadian teams should keep back all US players. Watch the backlash then.
-No reason he shouldn’t be released to play, just trying to make him look like a special player which he is not.
-Honestly think this is a mistake by the Rangers. I see their point and not wanting him to get hurt. However playing in WJC is better than sitting waiting for the NHL season to start.
-I think the Rangers believe they are relatively close to contending, LOL.
-I’ve loathed the Rangers since the 1971 quarter-finals. Here’s yet another reason to despise them.
-Unless Lafreniere told the Rangers he didn’t want to play (hardly likely) this a terrible PR move by the Rangers. A lump of coal to the Rangers brass this Xmas.
and maybe the best one of all………..
-We should stop sending Labatt’s and Molson to NYC.
To be fair there was a fair amount of support for their Rangers decision, as those commenting remembered that Lafreniere got hurt in last year’s tournament, missing a few games. They also mentioned the fact that the New Jersey Devils would not release Jack Hughes to Team USA.
Then there were those in the media who wondered if the Rangers were doing the right thing, based on hockey experience.
Matt Larkin of SI.com wrote this about the situation: “So why not let Lafreniere tune up against elite players his own age in high-stakes hockey, just to get the muscles responding to game action in advance of camp? Injury risk is the most obvious reason, sure. The Rangers believe they can be contenders this season and want their star rookie healthy. Its also possible heâ€™d have to quarantine after leaving the WJC bubble and miss some of camp depending on the start date. Perhaps the Rangers are optimistic about a mid-January season start and camps opening in a few weeks. But Lafreniere hasnâ€™t played an organized hockey game since March 8, 2020. Is there not a case to be made heâ€™d be better off sharpening his game skills before attending his first NHL camp?”
The reality is that the Rangers have a plan for proceeding with their young talent, as reported by Darren Dreger of TSN.
“The Rangers made the decision that they will not be releasing Alexis LafreniÃ¨re. The Rangers want him to continue to train in the New York area as we reported on Tuesday. He’s been doing that, staying with family members since the beginning of November. They want him entirely focused on his first NHL camp.”
Part of the that plan does not include traveling across the continent (the tournament is in Edmonton) to play in tournament as the second-wave of the virus spread across North America, to a team that is having some COVID-19 issues of their own.