A few weeks ago NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced that the NHL would no longer be interrupting the regular season for players to compete in the Olympics starting with the 2018 PyeongChang Winter games.
Instead of the Olympics being international all-star type games that they have been for the last five Olympics, games that people around the globe watch, they will feature lesser known or even unrecognizable players on their teams.
The NHL said released a statement saying that their decision came down to the fact that teams don’t want to take a 17-day break in their schedule in a period in which they are one of only two major sports being televised.
“I think the overwhelming sentiment of the teams is that it’s very disruptive on the season and there is somewhere between fatigue and negativity on the subject,” Bettman said in early March.
However there is much speculation that the big reason for NHL backing out of the Olympics is because the International Olympic Committee will no longer be paying the participation costs that are associated with travel, insurance and lodgings for the NHL players.
The IOC released a statement after the NHL’s decision.
“The IOC, which distributes 90 percent of its revenue for the development of sport in the world, obviously cannot treat a national commercial league better than not-for-profit international sports federations which are developing sport globally.”
While the NHL has announced they will not be participating as an institution, the Player’s Association has indicated that it will “very probably be an individual club decision” whether or not they will allow their players to participate in the games. This could allow superstars to play for their countries. Alexander Ovechkin, one of the top players in the world, has stated that he will play in the Olympics no matter what.
“Yeah, I didn’t change my mind and I won’t. Because it’s my country. I think everybody wants to play there. It’s the biggest opportunity in your life to play in the Olympics Games. So I don’t know, somebody [is] going to tell me ‘don’t go,’ I don’t care, I just go.”
Whether or not it ends up being up to the discretion of the individual clubs, this decision has benefitted one country in particular. Russia’s national hockey league, the KHL, has not made the same decision as the NHL, so their national teams will feature top players while most other teams feature lesser squads. It seems that it would take a miracle to beat the Russians in 2018.