More divide between the NHL and its players. Just what everyone needs.
That ultimately is the result of the NHL deciding it will not participate in the 2018 Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea after doing so for every Games since 1998. The longstanding drama of whether the league would partake ends with NHL players gutted about not getting the green light to represent their countries before a global audience.
Henrik Lundqvist, who won gold with Sweden in Turin in 2006, tweeted the following after the NHL’s announcement: "Disappointing news, @NHL won’t be part of the Olympics 2018. A huge opportunity to market the game at the biggest stage is wasted. But most of all, disappointing for all the players that can’t be part of the most special adventure in sports."
That tells you all you need to know about how much pride the players take in going to the Olympics, that one of the best NHL goalies ever who has made several deep runs in the NHL playoffs with the Rangers dubbed the Olympics "the most special adventure in sports."
There should be no greater priority for the NHL than growing its league and sport, and it clearly sees an opportunity in China, where the Kings and Canucks will play preseason games in September and where the 2022 Winter Olympics will be held.
The league and its owners apparently don’t see enough opportunity in South Korea, at least under the current circumstances. Any Winter Olympics, no matter what country it takes place in, is a massive chance for the NHL to have its star players perform in a best-on-best tournament on the biggest possible stage, a chance to attract new fans here in North America and draw the attention of uninitiated observers around the world. It shouldn’t be difficult to capitalize on Olympic buzz.
Not enough benefit though, not unless the NHL was getting something bigger out of it, like trying to get the NHLPA to agree not to opt out of the collective bargaining agreement in the autumn of 2019 and extend the current CBA to 2025 in exchange for NHL player participation in the 2018 Games. The NHLPA, full of players already unhappy losing money because of escrow, formally rejected the proposal in December.
Olympic matchups won’t be on at ideal times here because of the time difference (they won’t be in 2022, either,) so fans will do what many people do these days: Use their DVRs or the internet to catch up on all the action.
Certainly players can get hurt during the Olympics, as John Tavares did in 2014. Is that enough reason to keep players who possess great national pride from participating? An owner can live in fear like Eugene Melnyk does with Senators star Erik Karlsson, or an owner can support his best players like Ted Leonsis has done with Alex Ovechkin, who previously stated to play in the Olympics for Russia no matter what.
The NHL’s statement said "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."
If it’s truly closed, the league, its players and its fans all suffer because of it.