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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.

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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"

    Anyone Else ever feel that Wayne Gretzky and Bettman both have very similar mannerisms when talking in to a mike? Just watch interviews from both on Youtube or whatever and watch the way they move and speak. I find it a little creepy that one of my favorite players of all time reminds me of the person who at times I find the most irritating in the Hockey sphere of the world. I really cannot help thinking of Bettman when I watch a Gretzky interview.

  • 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.

  • O.C.

    NHL should have said:

    “Sure, we will go to the Olympics, we’ll go to the SUMMER Olympics!”

    Before you turn your nose up…
    – The NBA plays in the winter but games are in the Summer Games.
    – The World Cup of Hockey is late Summer, so the NHLPA would be on board.

    • That’s actually not a bad idea at all… it’s outside the box thinking for sure. It’s not like they play any games outdoors and now adays it doesn’t need to be winter for a hockey arena to function properly.

  • madjam

    Solution : Teams let players go , and still play NHL schedule with what each team has left . Players going responsible for their own insurances and other costs , or subsidized by their Olympic committees and/or players Association .

  • Danoilerfanincalgary

    Seems to me the fans are split on this, my take is that Canada will send a team and it will be a great opportunity for some players not in the NHL and I will cheer them on big time. We also get to keep watching NHL hockey and our favorite team so it seems like a win win for the fans of Canada. As for Ovi he can go I guess if he wants, the 90 million
    he’s made over his career doesn’t mean he needs to show any loyalty to the Caps fans or the NHL.
    The IOC are greedy little pigs that’s all I have to say about that. The young NHL stars will get their chance down the road in China despite the IOC threat. I won’t miss getting up at 4:00 am for a tape delay game with Lichtenstein. Easy to lay the blame at Bettmans feet thats a national past time but I am on the fans side and this time that is the owners side.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • I actually respect the NHL for telling the IOC to take a hike. Who in their right mind would assume all the risk for future business growth potential while your partner assumes no risk and takes all immediate profits. That’s as terrible of a deal as it gets. Then for the IOC to not even negotiate at all and instead use threats of no 2022 participation if no NHL’s next year. What a joke, the NHL had no choice but Not to go.

  • Canoe Ride 27.1

    Disappointing for sure but not the end of the world. I can see both sides of this and how it is not coming together, which comes down to $ but what doesn’t?
    There are positives like keeping our team healthy and playing, as well as giving some other their moment in the sun. While I’ll still watch and cheer for Canada, the gold medal game will feel more like the bronze medal game.

  • ricardo2000

    Typical self-serving BS and attitude from a bunch of greedy corporate whores. The arrogance of Bettman and the owners, their contempt for the players and fans, their ignorance of the true value of the game, and their traitorous greed are on display for everyone to see.

  • madjam

    Big losers are the IOC and lost revenue from commercials and commercialism due to a lower grade of hockey talent . Olympics are all about commercialism now , and do not care if NHL players are involved to be honest in a non hotbed of hockey to begin with . IOC steps up or Olympics is dead for NHL participation , not really NHL’s fault here , or players and their union .

  • DXB

    Players pro careers are short in the big picture and this strikes me a very short sighted. The union had every opportunity to step up and say we’re going. Reflecting back on your career and realizing you missed the opportunity to be an olympian and play for your country will be regrettable for many of these guys. That said, when business interests trump playing for the love of the game and country, then the pro’s don’t deserve to be at that event anyway.

  • Beaumatters

    I am mixed on the decision, but just once I wish the NHL would just come out and tell it like it is. It’s all about money. Nothing else. Was the World Cup of Hockey not a risk (probably a higher risk) of player injury? Did it disrupt the schedule? (also increasing player injury) I say yes, so the only issue is money. They received it in the World Cup (not as much as expected) and have to spend it here. Business wise, it does not make sense, but do not smoke screen the issue with regards to player safety or a disruptive season. Just say we will not spend money to send players to the Olympics.

  • madjam

    Apparently IIHF has paid the bill (insurances etc.) for NHL being in the Olympics , not the IOC . That has been accepted practice last 4-5 times NHL was involved in Olympics .They were prepared to do it again this time (IIHF) , but NHL wants a bigger piece of the overall pie now (additional revenues) .