Did the NHL just put a nail in the coffin of the struggling IOC by refusing to participate in 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang?
The National Hockey League will not shut down its regular season to allow top players to compete at the 2018 Winter Games
The National Hockey League announced on Monday that it will not shut down its regular season to allow top players to compete at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
The NHL had sent players to the past five Winter Olympics, starting with the Nagano Games in 1998, interrupting the season to do so.
But the break was unpopular with club owners, and the league said attempts to negotiate a deal with other interested parties including the International Olympic Committee, the International Ice Hockey Federation and the NHL Players’ Association (NHLPA) had failed.
“A number of months have now passed and no meaningful dialogue has materialised,” the league said in a statement. “Instead, the IOC has now expressed the position that the NHL’s participation in Beijing in 2022 is conditioned on our participation in South Korea in 2018.
“And the NHLPA has now publicly confirmed that it has no interest or intention of engaging in any discussion that might make Olympic participation more attractive to the clubs,” it said.
“As a result, and in an effort to create clarity among conflicting reports and erroneous speculation, this will confirm our intention to proceed with finalising our 2017-18 regular season schedule without any break to accommodate the Olympic Winter Games. We now consider the matter officially closed.”
The decision likely means many top players such as Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby, who sparked Canada to gold in 2010 and 2014, won’t play in Pyeongchang.
Some, like Russia’s Alex Ovechkin, have vowed to play in the Games regardless of what their clubs think.
The NHLPA issued a statement calling the decision “shortsighted”.
“Any sort of inconvenience the Olympics may cause to next season’s schedule is a small price to pay compared to the opportunity to showcase our game and our greatest players on this enormous international stage,” the players’ association said.
“The League’s efforts to blame others for its decision is as unfortunate as the decision itself. NHL players are patriotic and they do not take this lightly.”
New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who won Olympic gold in 2006 with Sweden, was among players criticising the decision on social media.
Disappointing news, @NHL won't be part of the Olympics 2018. A huge opportunity to market the game at the biggest stage is wasted..
— Henrik Lundqvist (@HLundqvist30) April 3, 2017
The NHL originally opted to interrupt its season to accommodate the Games in a bid to raise the profile of the game internationally. But owners have long disliked the idea of exposing their stars to the risk of mid-season injury and cramming more NHL games into a shorter time span.
After the Turin Games in 2006, former Philadelphia Flyers owner Ed Snider said he didn’t see the value in the move since the time difference prevented North American fans from seeing the games in prime time.
That wasn’t an issue for the Vancouver Games in 2010, but discussions intensified prior to the Sochi Games in 2014.
In 2014, the IOC agreed to cover insurance and travel costs for the players, which were approximately $14 million. But the IOC has refused to cover costs for 2018.