The NHL made it official: The South Korea Olympics are a no go.
Commissioner Gary Bettman said NHL owners are not in favor of sending their players to the event mainly because the disruption caused by shutting down the season for two weeks.
Here is the NHL’s official 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) 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 NHL has participated in every Winter Olympics since 1998.
In previous years, including for the 2014 Sochi Games, the IOC offered to pay insurance and travel costs for NHL players as an appeasement for the league interrupting its season. That offer was not on the table this year, and it’s the main sticking point from the league’s perspective. NHL players, meanwhile, likely won’t be happy with this decision. Several players on the record saying that they will play for their countries regardless of the league’s stance, most notably Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals. Team owner Ted Leonsis has said that he would allow Ovechkin to go, creating an awkward situation for other big name players and their team owners.
The NHL conducted polls in Canada and the United States to determine if fans were in favor Olympic participation. In the United States, 73 percent said they were not in favor. In Canada, it was 53 percent against the break.
Most of the reaction to the NHL announcement on Twitter, however, was quite negative:
Truly disgraceful. The short-sightedness of this league has never ceased to amaze me. https://t.co/6liMdM7enC
— Bob Stewart (@TheBobStew) April 3, 2017
The only people on the planet who don't want the NHL at the Olympics are the owners.
Literally 30 dudes in the entire world against it.
— Michael Castillo (@MichaelCastFS) April 3, 2017
NHL: WE NEED TO GROW THE SPORT AND BRING IN MORE VIEWERS
NHL: Yeah, we're not gonna do that Olympics hockey thing that had 27.6M viewers
— Kirky (@michaelkpeters) April 3, 2017
The NHL is right to skip the Olympics. Nothing says "growing the game" like shunning the side of the world you have no presence in.
— Jeff Veillette (@JeffVeillette) April 3, 2017
NHL won't go to the Olympics.
Bring on the amateurs and lower level professionals for their chance at glory!
— Dan Kingerski (@Budmoonshine) April 3, 2017
Hockey is the best game in the world. The NHL is the worst league in the world.
— Ken Campbell (@THNKenCampbell) April 3, 2017
— AJ Simmons (@ajthesimmons) April 3, 2017
No '18 NHL olympics pic.twitter.com/O81OadDl0m
— The Hockey Hangout (@HockeyHangout) April 3, 2017
The NHL seems to be overlooking the fact that, while the Olympics bring it no revenue, they buy goodwill with players for CBA talks.
— Matt Larkin (@THNMattLarkin) April 3, 2017
There's no bigger gap between how fun a product is by nature and how fun the league actually allows it to be than hockey in the NHL.
— Dimitri Filipovic (@DimFilipovic) April 3, 2017
Bettman: the NHL will not participate in the Olympics
— emily (@EmilyPens12) April 3, 2017
Remember this when, during the next @NHL lockout, the league tries to push the narrative that its the players who are stopping play.
— Daniel Holt (@danielpholt) April 3, 2017
I'll admit it – I have no issues with the NHL not going to South Korea. Disaster shutting down for 2 weeks in most non-Canadian markets
— iain mcletchie (@mcletch) April 3, 2017
You know who's happy about the stupid #NHL not going to Korea? All the athletes in the other sports there.
— steve buffery (@Beezersun) April 3, 2017
What do you think? Is the NHL making a mistake not participating in next year’s Winter Olympics?