It’s a sad day for hockey players and fans. On Monday, the National Hockey League (NHL) announced that it won’t be participating in the 2018 Winter Olympics. The NHL released the following statement.
“We have previously made clear that while the overwhelming majority of our clubs are adamantly opposed to disrupting the 2017-18 NHL season for purposes of accommodating Olympic participation by some NHL players, we were open to hearing from any of the other parties who might have an interest in the issue (e.g., the IOC, the IIHF, the NHLPA, etc.) as to reasons the Board of Governors might be interested in re-evaluating their strongly held views on the subject. A number of months have now passed and no meaningful dialogue has materialized. 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. As a result, and in an effort to create clarity among conflicting reports and erroneous speculation, this will confirm our intention to proceed with finalizing our 2017-18 regular season schedule without any break to accommodate the Olympic Winter Games. We now consider the matter officially closed.”
The 2018 Olympics are set to take place in PyeongChang, South Korea beginning on February 9. Since 1998, the NHL has taken part in every Winter Olympics, so not making it to South Korea will be a bad precedent to set. Hockey fans seem upset about the announcement but the NHL says they did conduct a little research before finalizing their decision. The league set up a poll asking fans if they were in favor of the NHL taking a break in February of 2018 so some of their players could compete in the Olympics. In the United States, 73 percent said they were not in favor of the break, and in Canada, 53 percent were not in favor.
It’s not just hockey fans who disagree with the statement released by the NHL. According to USA Today, NHL player Alec Ovechkin said he plans on going to the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang even if the National Hockey League tells him otherwise. Russian-born Ovechkin is a forward with the Washington Capitals and has been playing for them since 2005. One of the best in the league, Ovechkin isn’t likely to back down.
Other players have expressed their unhappiness with the NHL’s decision. New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist took to his Twitter account to share his thoughts. Lundqvist tweeted that he feels the news is disappointing and that they will be missing out on a huge opportunity to market the game at the biggest stage. Lundqvist continued that it’s even more disappointing for all of the players that can’t be a part of the most special adventure in sports.
The NHL is made up of 30 teams, and there are so many talented players who certainly would love to play their sport in the Olympics.
The NHL regular season ends on Sunday, April 9, with playoffs beginning on April 12. The playoff schedule has not yet been determined, but 16 teams will compete in post-season play. The matchups will be announced on Sunday evening.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman is going to have his hands full with this decision. Even though the statement said that the matter is officially closed, there is no way that Bettman has heard the last of it. Hockey fans are loud and proud, and when something isn’t right, they will let you know. The NHL not taking part in the 2018 Winter Olympics could be a blunder that will be hard to recover from.
[Featured Image by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images]