No-go for NHL in Olympics regrettable

Commentary by Mac Olsen

It was surprising to hear on April 3 that the National Hockey League will not allow its players to participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.
But, as regrettable as that will be for some fans, life will continue and the NHL players from abroad who want to play in the Winter Olympics will have to ponder whether they stay with their teams or return home. 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, etc.) 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.”
Yes, it would have been nice to see Canadian NHL players on Team Canada next year. Our talent is equal to that of any other country. We certainly have the gold medals to prove it, including Wayne Gretzy leading our team to the gold medal win at the Utah Winter Olympics in 2002.
Now, Team Canada will be drawing on lesser-known players for next year, but who could perform well and give us a medal win nonetheless.
Still, I don’t think it would have hurt the NHL to accommodate the desire for Canadian and American NHL players to go and play for their respective national teams. Or the players from other countries.
It’s not like the two-or-three-week schedule for the Winter Olympics would have thrown the NHL schedule into chaos. Even during the regular years, the Stanley Cup Finals can go into June.
And the NHL could have offered two different scheduling scenarios for the 2017/18 season.
Moreover, will hockey fans tune into the Winter Olympics coverage or stay with their local team coverage? That’s something that the NHL should ponder as well.
And don’t tell me the NHL hasn’t gained good press from its participation in the Winter Olympics. They can point out that they had medal wins at previous Olympics like, again, the 2002 Utah Winter Olympics. Future foreign players, too, considering the NHL might look at this decision and think twice about put their names forward.
Regardless of the NHL’s decision, life will continue and I intend to watch Team Canada at the Winter Olympics next year.

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