NHL holding players back from the 2018 Olympics

Andrew Kicmol, Staff Writer

In September, Commissioner of the National Hockey League Gary Bettman officially made the decision that the league will not be sending its players to PeyongChang, South Korea for the 2018 Winter Olympics.

It’s the first time since 1998 that NHL players will not be going to the Olympic games to represent their countries. As an NHL fan I liked seeing Washington Capitols teammates Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom play against each other for their countries. There’s a bit of a friendly rivalry, but also knowing they will go back to playing together after the Olympics is over was always interesting to watch.

It was more fun watching the Olympics because I knew the players that were going to be there. I won’t get to see that now and neither will the rest of the fans of the NHL.

But why not?

There are many reasons that the players of the NHL are not going to take part the Olympics. Reasons range from the potential for injuries to star players to a condensed schedule after the tournament is over. However, the main reason comes down to money.

According to Dan Rosen, writer for NHL.com, The International Olympic Committee (IOC) no longer wants to pay for NHL players to go overseas and play in the 17-day tournament. NHL owners also not wanting to pay players’ travel costs, agreed. Previously the IOC had been footing the bill for NHL players travel costs and lodging, including costs for their families and insurance. It’s understandable that the IOC would want to stop paying for the costs of NHL players to play in the Olympics, especially since the IOC doesn’t have to pay for NBA athletes to play in the summer Olympics. The insurance alone cost $7 million for the 2014 Winter Olympics, according to Jennifer Calfas of Time Magazine.

So what might be a solution for those who still want to see their NHL stars participate in the Olympics?

According to Rosen, President of the International Ice Hockey Federation Rene Fasal offered to put up $20 million for NHL players to participate in the 2018 Olympics. But Bettman and NHL owners still won’t agree to send their players, saying that the money from the IIHF would be taken from developmental programs that are a part of the IIHF.

The big question is: What will the 2018 Olympics look like without NHL players?

Probably not very good. All players that the NHL has rights to cannot go the Olympics, including minor league players and players in the NCAA that have been drafted. Critics of NHL stars going to the Olympics say that professionals should have never been allowed to participate in the Olympics in the first place. They’ve been arguing that the Olympics should be made up only of amateur participants and college-age skaters, much like the 1980 Olympic team of “Miracle” fame.

But even that 1980 gold medal winning team had a lot of NHL talent on their roster. In fact, some of the players were already drafted to NHL teams. The team that will compete at the Olympics next winter will be made up of has-been veterans playing overseas in other professional leagues and players that were never good enough to be drafted by NHL teams.

Interestingly, Russia will have a lot of professional players from the Kontinental Hockey League, an international professional hockey league considered to be the premier league in Europe and Asia. Russia will probably have a decent team, but the US and Canada will have very different looking teams from recent years.

Looking forward to future Olympic competitions, the decision to not send NHL players to the Olympics is a disappointing one for hockey fans across the world, and for the NHL it’s a shot in the foot. For an international league to not play on the biggest world stage just makes the NHL seem like they just don’t get it. According to Larry Brooks of the New York Post, NBC and its sports network, which airs NHL games nationally during the season and has the exclusive rights to broadcasting the Olympics, said they will not air any NHL games during the 2018 Olympics in a show of their unhappiness with the NHL. What’s more worrisome is the IOC has stated that going to the Winter Olympics in 2022 in China hinged on the NHL coming to PeyongChang in 2018. This considered, the NHL could be done with the Olympics for the foreseeable future.