Commentary

Drury's baseball pedigree would have boded well in Beijing

Summer Olympians, count your blessing the NHL players are exactly that and not competing for medals. From Marc-Andre Fleury's peerless butterfly to Georges Laraque pugilistic prowess, many a hockey player would have left Beijing donning gold.

Updated: August 22, 2008, 9:10 AM ET
By Terry Frei | Special to ESPN.com

NHL players aren't scheduled to get back into the Olympic act until the 2010 Games in Vancouver. After that, league participation in the Winter Games will be re-evaluated -- and perhaps will end.

But during the 2008 Beijing Games, we've figured out that studio gymnastics commentator Bela "Bananas" Karolyi can become just as outraged as Don "Grapes" Cherry. We've also enjoyed pondering how hockey players also could have participated in the Summer Olympics:

Synchronized diving: Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin, Vancouver Canucks, Sweden
Diving would be prime gold-medal territory for Sweden if Swedish fans could get past the fact that the event, which debuted at the Sydney Games in 2000, is one of the most ridiculous-looking sports on the Olympic docket. That's saying a lot given the competition.

Apparently, the synchronized divers are well-served if they look alike, because their goal is to be mirror images from takeoff to splashdown.

Given the Sedin brothers' ability to dive -- they aren't the best in the league from Ornskoldsvik, but certainly are the best twins in the league from anywhere -- and the fact that Sweden didn't have a two-man team in the finals at Beijing, they would have been natural candidates to quickly pick up such maneuvers as the back 2½ somersault pike from the 3-meter springboard.

This year's gold medalists, Feng Wang and Qin Kai of China, would have needed some home cooking to knock off the twins.

Baseball: Chris Drury, New York Rangers, United States
Next year will be the 20th anniversary of the Little League World Series victory of the Trumbull, Conn., team over players from Taiwan who in some cases looked old enough to be bartenders in Williamsport.

[+] EnlargeMarc Andre-Fleurry
Jim McIsaac/Getty ImagesMarc-Andre Fleury has proven he is more than adept at the butterfly.
Drury was the chubby No. 1 Trumbull catcher who switched to the mound when it was his turn. It was his turn for the title game, when his best friend Kenny Martin hit the game-winning home run. (Martin is Drury's best friend even today.)

A broken wrist in Drury's junior year of high school nudged him away from baseball and toward hockey -- he was able to play hockey in a cast -- and the rest is history.

But his obvious all-around athletic talent makes it apparent that he could have been an excellent baseball player if he had stuck to it … or maybe even returned to it. Now it's too late, though, because baseball (and softball) will be kicked out of the Olympics after Beijing. Next thing you know, some nut will talk about eliminating the Winter Games' showcase sport -- curling.

100-meter butterfly: Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh Penguins, Canada
Michael Phelps' gold-medal count would have been diminished to seven, and the one-hundredth of a second difference between Phelps and Serb Milorad Cavic would have decided the silver and bronze.

200-meter freestyle: Dominik Hasek, Detroit Red Wings (emeritus), Czech Republic
What a way to go out after retiring from the NHL!

The guy who did it in freestyle fashion, doing whatever it took to make a save, including making like a Slinky (with credit to the MasterCard commercial), could have taken his no-rules approach to the pool and done whatever was necessary to race up and down the pool first.

That is, if he didn't pull a groin muscle taking 45 minutes to put on one of those newfangled suits.

Boxing: Georges Laraque, Montreal Canadiens, Canada
Once he overcame his initial insistence on shedding and dropping his gloves before throwing a punch, he would have won his division in a walk. That is, if the judges didn't fall asleep at their Nintendo joysticks, or however that works now. He would have received five minutes for fighting and a gold medal.

Floor exercise: Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals, Russia
One of the NHL's strengths is its relative lack of look-at-me showmanship.

Granted, that quality is considered a weakness by the men and women who have sports-marketing degrees and work in the front offices of the teams with dual NBA-NHL ownership -- the folks who want the game-night experience to be an end-to-end scream fest, designed by and for morons. And I'll grant that the NHL could loosen up a little, which is why I used the term "relative."

Ovechkin, who gets plenty of opportunities, dances as much as anyone ever has in celebration of his goals, and until he gets ridiculous, at least he's offered a change of pace. It wouldn't have taken all that much for him to learn all those somersaults and twists.

Mountain biking/cycling: Trevor Linden, Vancouver Canucks, Canada
The possibilities for NHL players in this sport are numerous. That's not just because after games alone, some guys seem to ride from Vancouver to Sunrise, Fla., on the exercise bikes.

But Linden takes the real thing seriously, and he began competing in bicycle racing while still playing in the NHL. He finished -- among other races -- the Transalp 2007 event in Europe, covering about 600 miles. And since his retirement in June, he might have cranked up his training.

Beach volleyball: Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit Red Wings, Russia and/or Sweden
Given the adjustable nature of nationalities for Olympic competition, this could be worked out. They do everything else well together, so I assume they could kick sand in Misty (or Brad) May's face at this sport.

Water polo: Dion Phaneuf, Calgary Flames, Canada
After watching a bit of the Serbia-Croatia preliminary match, and remembering blood in the water at past matches (or whatever they're called), it's clear this game can be about as clean as Darius Kasparaitis. At best, the stars can push the envelope, especially underwater, because referee Konstantinov Fraser doesn't want to get his hair wet and look below the surface.

Right up Phaneuf's alley.

Equestrian: Joe Sakic, Colorado Avalanche, Canada, and Mats Sundin, Toronto Maple Leafs, Sweden
The issue here would have been whether at the end of the competition, would they ride off into the sunset?

Terry Frei is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. He is the author of just-released "'77" and of "Third Down and a War to Go."

Terry Frei

Special to ESPN.com
Terry Frei is a columnist for the Denver Post. He is also the author of "Third Down and a War to Go" and "Horns, Hogs, and Nixon Coming."