NHL players may fight to play in the 2018 Olympics

Bailey Ayres, Sports Editor

In 1998, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman gave the league the green light to allow players to play in the Olympics.

Now, Bettman and the league are pulling their players out of the 2018 Olympics and possibly the 2022 Olympics as well.

Before 1998, the Olympic hockey players were non-professionals. Oftentimes  they were from the American Hockey League (AHL), colleges or small hockey leagues all over Europe.

People are a bit bummed not to see the professionals compete in the Olympics because the U.S./Canada, Canada/Russia, and Russia/U.S. rivalries will not be at their best.

We are so used to seeing Canada’s Sidney Crosby go up against Russia’s Alexander Ovechkin, or Crosby go up against U.S.’s Zach Parise. Now we will have these unknowns playing in major hockey rivalries where the outcome will be different due to the even playing field of non-professionals.

“The NHL understands the arguments for participating in the Olympics: promoting the League, growing the sport, giving fans and players a great experience,” states NHL.com. But on April 3, the NHL decided that letting their players go to the 2018 Olympics was not going to happen because there was no support or reasons to go.

In 2006, the concern for prime-time viewership was about the time differences when the Olympics are held in countries overseas with time zone differences, other than Canada or the U.S. With 11 years between then and now, I do not believe that is a concern due to the fact I can watch any kind of sporting event on my laptop. However, I may end up watching a game live at three in the morning during the Olympics depending on where it is.

Another reason why the NHL backed out from the 2018 Olympics was because they are not allowed access to the video highlights from the Olympics. “No highlights of Crosby’s golden goal for Canada against the United States in Vancouver. No highlights of T.J. Oshie’s shootout heroics for the United States against Russia in Sochi. You name it, the NHL hasn’t been able to show it,” states NHL.com.

The 2016 World Cup of Hockey helped consider pulling out the NHL players from the Olympics. Also, there is the fact that there will be two NHL games overseas next season, including a preseason game in Shanghai, China and a regular season game in Stockholm, Sweden. Bettman believes that is another way to spread international growth for the league.

NHL players did not take lightly to Bettman’s decision to pull them out of the Olympics. In a statement from the NHL Players Association (NHLPA): “Any sort of inconvenience the Olympics may cause to next season’s schedule is a small price to pay compared to the opportunity to showcase our game and our greatest players on this enormous international stage.”

The NHLPA continues with, “Instead this impedes the growth of our great game by walking away from an opportunity to reach sports fans worldwide.”

This is not only hurting the players, but it is also hurting the fans too. According to the NHLPA, “NHL players are patriotic and they do not take this lightly. A decent respect for the opinions of the players matters. This is the NHL’s decision, and its alone. It is very unfortunate for the game, the players and millions of loyal hockey fans.”

The players themselves took to social media or interviews speaking out against the NHL decision to pull out of the 2018 Olympics. Ovechkin told reporters that: “Yeah, I didn’t change my mind. I’m still going.”

Jonathan Toews told a reporter that he believes that this will lead to another lockout.

“Of course, if Russia needs us. Of course. You know, it’s in the heart for Russian people,” says Evgeni Kuznetsov to a reporter.