The NHL’s finally come to a conclusion regarding participation of its players in the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, and it’s not one that some players and fans will like:
They’re not going.
From the NHL:
“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 reasoning behind this from the NHL’s viewpoint is very clear: the entire schedule has to be adjusted for the participation of a few players. This leads to a condensed playing time, the interruption of the schedule, and then there’s the issue of teams’ best players being injured during the Olympics.
And all of this is to no financial gain to the clubs whatsoever.
It’s disappointing for fans and the players who want to represent their countries but can’t. It also may hamper participation in 2022 in Beijing.
It may be damaging to the league’s visibility, though. During the 2014 Winter Olympics, you had highlight reel moments like T.J. Oshie’s shootout barrage against Russia. Things like that build buzz for the player and the league among non-traditional hockey fans (as an example, I had someone yell “GO OSHIE!” at me in a metro Atlanta Taco Mac while I was sporting my T.J. Sochi t-shirt, and I had students trying to sneak-watch games on their phones during class).
This is a double edged sword. The teams and the league get to protect their players and their schedule while losing out on potential marketability. NBC can’t showcase their NHL on NBC flagship. The KHL is set to make some publicity waves.
Puck Daddy has a great breakdown of the issues at hand here, and it’s multifaceted.