No NHLers at the Olympics

The NHL announced this afternoon that they will not be participating in the upcoming Olympics in PyeongChang. Surprised? We probably shouldn’t be.

When I last wrote about the Olympics, Gary Bettman said that no negotiations were upcoming and apparently he meant it. At this point, the reasons for not going have ranged from not wanting to disrupt the regular season, to being worried about injuries, to the more likely scenario of being annoyed that the owners are unable to capitalize off of the tournament itself. When asked about the Olympics on March 21st, Bettman said:

“The point is I was trying to emphasize the fact that this is terribly disruptive to our business and there seems to be no offsetting way to mitigate that disruption. “When the IOC comes to us and says, by the way, we know it will cost $15 to $20 million to send your players between insurance, charter costs and accommodations for the players. Well… we’re not going to pay for that. If they don’t value our participation (then) why are we going?”

Clearly, neither the NHL nor the IOC budged from their positions and now it’s hockey fans that are going to pay for it. What doesn’t make sense to me is how the NHL is actively looking to grow the game in Asia, but, in the same breath, will call the Olympics a major disruption to their season. Sure, taking two weeks out of the year may a hassle but let’s not pretend that this isn’t about the fact that they can’t cash in on their players competing for their country.

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For hockey fans, the news of an NHLless Olympics was like watching someone slowly lift their foot off the ground and use it to kick you in the pills – we probably shouldn’t be surprised but that doesn’t make it hurt any less.

Having NHLers at the Olympics has been one of the biggest reasons to get into the winter games and I think it’s fair to say that many of us were hoping that Bettman’s “don’t hold your breath” comments were nothing more than negotiating for a better deal. That said, I’m not sure why we were hopeful for a different result considering Bettman has already overseen three lockouts under his tenure – what does he care about the Olympics?

I’m not sure how into the Spengler Cup you guys are but it looks like we’ll be getting an Olympic version of it as we’ll all be cheering for junior kids/college bros/European pros to bring home the threepeat for Canada on the men’s side.

  • MacT's Neglected Helmet

    Sad. Watching the best hockey players in the world compete for their country at the Olympics is so much fun. Seeing your favourite players in a new environment outside of the rigid confines of the NHL spotlight is fun. Geeking out over the roster selections before they’re made is fun. Even complaining when your favourite players are snubbed is fun. It’s just so much fun for hockey fans.

    Thanks for robbing us fans of fun, NHL. Again.

    • Randaman

      Rethink how you would feel if you were being asked to just forgo 10 to 15% off your bottom line. I bet you would have a different view not to mention this isn’t on the NHL. This is the doing of the always corrupt IOC.

  • Ever the Optimist

    If we want to see the pros play then we pay to see the NHL games. Olympics were always amateur athletics and I never understood why we got the pros involved.

      • Ever the Optimist

        To me this all comes down to how commercialism has pushed our society to disregard the past. The olympics were brought back at the end of the 19th century with an agenda. The thought process was to promote the games among amateurs instead of professionals with an ideal of promoting peace and an understanding between cultures. Coubertin was also advocating the ideal that all people need to aspire to creating a sound mind in a sound body. Now its just a 3 ring circus no matter the quality of hockey.

    • I agree. Keep the Olympics amateur. The deck is so stacked against the other smaller countries by allowing professional players. It’s as bad as regurgitating the 1972 Summit Series or 1987 Canada Cup over and over again. Just Canadians living in the past, unable to stay relevant. Want to improve the quality of hockey? Improve the quality of the amateur side of the sport and make it more accessible to all.

  • Burns14

    Draisaitl must not be too pleased. He battled for qualification before the beginning of the season. Have to wonder if he’ll make the trip over and play for Germany.

    • Hemmercules

      I wonder what the penalties will be for NHL players that go?? I can’t imagine any team being too happy with one of their top players jumping ship for two weeks during a run to the playoffs.

      • Ragnarok Ouroboros

        My guess is that it is a breach of contract. If that player gets injured attending an unsanctioned event their contract could possible be terminated. In the case of Ovechkin, the team would never cancel his contract. But if someone like Loui Erickson went and got injured, it would give the team an easy out on his contract. At minimum, the players would be suspended without pay during the duration of the Olympics.

  • Hemmercules

    While I do enjoy the Olympic hockey I’m not heartbroken over this. Now that the Oil are so much better I would rather just watch them play. The IOC cut off any funding they would have previously paid for the NHL players to go, now that the NHL has to foot that bill its no surprise they aren’t going. The NHL will be back in it one day, Bettman can’t live forever.

  • FlareKnight

    Well guess we’re back to the only Olympic hockey worth watching being the women’s team. Which even then just comes down to Canada vs the US 99% of the time. It’s fun still.

    It was expected. Sucks, but expected. I don’t care who is most at fault, just sucks that it’s ended up like this. It figures. The Leafs are turning a corner and have real stars that could shine on the international stage….and now we stop going.

    I presume the NHL will be trying harder to get in for China, but wouldn’t even mind them being told ‘nope’.

    • Finnish Oiler fan in Edmonton89

      Watching boys play midget AAA is more entertaining than watching the women’s hockey

      Boys even younger than that are more skilled and entertaining than olympics women.

      Ignorance from a leafs fan is nothing new, should be expected though from someone with a anime picture that probably just started getting into hockey. Also I’m a women btw, so don’t call me sexist.

      Watching Canadian kids play the best players of the KHL and other euro leagues will be a fun change. Canada dominates too much on Olympic stage and it was getting boring tbh.

      • @Hallsy4

        I’m just being bored at work here, I’m not saying anyone is or isn’t sexist, but I think it’s still possible to be a sexist woman, no? Technically, I actually think it might be double sexist to imply that because I am a woman, therefore I cannot be Sexist. I don’t know if it’s true or not, but I’ve heard that Shakira is a Sexist Woman.

  • Chelmsford Leafs

    This is a short-sighted decision that will harm the game in the long run. We have to endure the rubbish that is the All-Stars weekend but don’t have the best players at the Olympics.
    Given that Nation’s rankings and Olympic qualification are based on games that have included NHL players, perhaps the USA or Canada will give their place to Great Britain. We might not win, but we will send our best players and treat the tournament with respect.

  • hockey1099

    The Olympics isn’t about amateur athletics. Its about best on best. Bolt isnt an amateur runner he gets paid well for his talents. Hockey is the star of the winter of Olympics and its a shame we wont get to see our boys go for gold. All the parties involved should be ashamed. The world cup isnt the same its a made up event with teams that are not best on best. No way Mcdavid isnt on team Canada in best on best tournament so dont tell me its the same as the Olympics. The only good thing is i dont have to get up at random times to watch the games.Without hockey being there ill boycott watching all sports and hope others do as well. Lower ratings might wake up the IOC. Its not that hard to give up watching cross country skiing so a boycott should be easy.

    • A-Mc

      Our boys playing for gold in a foreign land is part of the appeal for me as well. We want our teams to represent Canada well. This element is completely lost with the World Cup.

  • A-Mc

    This doesnt feel real to me. NHL superstars NOT at the Olympics? no way.. they have to go.

    My gut tells me that the players will find a way to go, i just don’t know how it’s going to play out

  • The older I get, the better I was...

    A very disappointing outcome. I have always enjoyed the best of the best in an environment that is not manufactured solely for the NHL. It will be very interesting to see where Team Canada pulls its team members from.

  • OilBlood

    Ah that’s too bad I was really looking forward to seeing Hall get rejected by team Canada again.

    Waittttt maybe now he can actually have a chance to get on the team…

    Now on a more serious note, it really is too bad we won’t get to see McDavid play with Crosby, Stamkos, Tavares, Toews all in their prime ?

  • FISTO Siltanen

    So what does Gary Bettman and the owners say in 2019 before the next lockout? This is for the fans? We want to give our fans what they want and have been asking us for?

    Fact is this might be the straw that breaks the camels back for the NHL. They no longer have the the moral issue of “good for the game” lobbying for a salary cap. They got that two lockouts ago.

    I would love to figure out a way to tell the NHL we don’t care one lick about their businesses the next time a labour stoppage comes.

    I’m open for ideas.

  • OilCan2

    No big loss. We already have too many games. If you are going to be honest do the players REALLY want to play for their flag BEFORE pro camp that butters their bread? Who’s juiced to play Spengler cup after 10 pre season tilts then an 80 game season?
    Tennis and golf have gone from seasonal sports to 24 /7 around the world grinds and hockey jumped on the bandwagon in recent years also. It just stinks of ‘milk the cash cow’. The golf tournament in Hawaii reserved for winners of the previous season started to get boycotted by worn out players who were not even offered a holiday at New Year.
    Oh, while I’m at it Mr. Bettman why not make TWO good decisions in a row and have coaches challenge apply to all the hooking, holding, stickwork, clutch, grab and cheap after the whistle shots by grade C- players on the stars. Besides, if the whistle does not go the play is live, not like that FAKE OFFSIDE call back crap.
    Did I mention that I am secretly happy that the playoffs start next week for the Oilers.

  • freelancer

    I’m torn. On the one hand I am incredibly dissapointed by this result. On the other… I kind of agree with the NHL. It’s an incredible cost to send players to the Olympics at very little return for the owners. Even worse, if a player competes in the Olympics and is injured? That can be potentially devastating for a team.

    All in all I’m sad that I won’t see McDavid and Crosby playing together next year and I hope both parties can find a way to figure this out in time for 2022.

  • Spaceman Spiff

    Well, I can’t say that I blame the NHL. They never really got the Olympic-bounce they were hoping for and I’m not 100-percent convinced that was the NHL’s fault.

    I bet if you asked Bettman and the other pointy-heads in the league, they’d tell you a big reason why they never got the Olympic bounce is pretty simple – the Americans never won a gold medal and don’t look like they will anytime soon.

    Shutting down the NHL for two weeks just to have professionals from Canada, Sweden and the Czech Republic win the golds since 1998 probably wasn’t in the original game plan. The NHL was almost certainly banking on a U.S. win somewhere in there, even if it meant we’d have to get up at 3 a.m. to watch the games. Publicly, the NHL will tell you those Canada/U.S. finals in Salt Lake and Vancouver were great, but privately, they’d have loved it if they Yanks had won gold – especially on home turf (like in 1980). The NHL’s really only about “growing the game” in the part of the world situated between New York and Los Angeles.

    Oh well, this should make the World Cup more relevant. Heck, it might even make it Canada-Cup-relevant. That’d be nice.

  • ed from edmonton

    The NHL is a business and their participation in the Olympics will be driven by what they perceive is in the best interest of their business. If the IOC didn’t make them a good enough offer then so be it.

    If a player makes the choice to play in the Olympics, that will be his choice, but he will have to accept the consequences.

    If a player doesn’t have an NHL contract next year (Draisaitl would be an example) he could chose to play in a league that includes participation in the Olympics as part of the contract. Pretty straight forward and it wouldn’t be shocking if say the German Olympic committee tries to entice this by offering LD something to make this choice.

    However if a player signed a contract in good faith he should expect to live up to the conditions of the contract. It will be interesting to see what Ovi will do, who has stated he will be playing for Russia. Will he pull a Radulov and just jump to the KHL despite having an NHL contract? If the NHL let Radulov back in with no consequences they certainly will for Ovi. It will be interesting to see what players will do.

  • Mark Lesser

    The NHL continues to not care about its fans. No team in Quebec, no Olympics, but they will try to shove the World Cup of Hockey down our throats to make money. Who wants to see anything like Hasek and the Czechs in 98 or Crosby’s goal in 2010 anyway when we can watch teams sleepwalk through games number 52 through 56 in February? What a joke. I hope the players decide to go anyways. Will Katz alienate McDavid by telling him he can’t go? I don’t think so.

  • TD

    I would have liked to see the NHL players at the Olympics, but don’t blame the owners at all. I wouldn’t shut my business down to let my employees go work for someone else.

    The players want to go but aren’t willing to give anything to get to go. They are in full partnership with the owners and could have made it happen if they wanted.

    The IOC are a corrupt bunch of a****es who make a mint but also weren’t willing to bend. I won’t bother watching the Olympics, maybe the IOC will see how they cut their own throats.

    • Clyde Frog

      I would think that you aren’t in the entertainment industry then.

      The fact that the NHL sells an entertainment product is what makes this all seem so weird. Let’s not pretend that access to free marketing, network time and interest in its stars does not carry a HUGE monetary value for the NHL.

      There seems to be a lot of grandstanding by both sides, but acting like the NHL is on the losing end even if certain costs aren’t covered is silly.

      I think this basically boils down to bitter owners hating their CBA and acting silly because the union wouldn’t allow them to get rid of certain clauses.

  • fran huckzky

    Mr Nicholson and Mr Bettman had better not try and push World Cup Crap on us ever again. Where was the fear then about stars being injured?? BS BS BS

    • Ragnarok Ouroboros

      The NHL got to keep the revenue and they had full access to all video highlights and marketing so injury risk was acceptable. They don’t get any of that with the Olympics. No reward, No risk.

  • Big Jacks Meat

    Does not bother me a whole lot actually. I am sure the athlete’s are but as a die hard NHL fan I don’t want the disruption and that’s my FAN based opinion. Other than Hockey , I really do get into the Olympics a lot.
    One injury to Connor…and I don’t Blame the NHL actually. All I care about is PLAYOFFS NHL STYLE.

    I would Take an Oilers Stanley Cup win over Oly gold any day of the week. I am proud when Canada wins but my team is the Oilers , Not Team Canada for 2 weeks.

  • Mimico58

    I am not surprised. I would actually prefer to see our olympic hockey team return to it’s original format. Only non professional athletes competing against the same from around the globe. It would open up space for players to show their abilities and qualities otherwise not seen for the super stars that we have come to expect!

  • Ragnarok Ouroboros

    For players there is no risk and no loss of income. For the teams there is a lot of risk and there is no revenue generated for them. I still remember how Mathias Ohlund was injured in the Olympics and that killed the Canucks playoff hopes. Ohlund got paid, but Canucks had a very disappointing year.