According to a report out of Canada’s SportsNet, the NHL has officially decided not to participate in the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in South Korea next February.
The NHL has released the following statement regarding the 2018 Olympic Winter Games. pic.twitter.com/nqjYtsLHew
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) April 3, 2017
This will be the first Olympic Games since the 1994 games in Lillehammer, Norway that the games will be without NHL talent. They have been a part of every Winter Olympics since Nagano in 1998.
The move comes as the Stanley Cup Playoffs draw near and the league didn’t want the Olympic debate being a cloud hanging over the NHL’s premier event.
The NHL just send a news release saying it will not go the the next winter Olympics.
— Renaud Lavoie (@renlavoietva) April 3, 2017
So why isn’t the NHL taking part? It’s mostly business related. The NHL essentially shuts down their season for 3 weeks every 4 years during a time when nothing else is really happening in North American sports. The NFL and NCAA Football are finished and MLB is still a few weeks away from Spring Training. The only competition is the NBA/NCAA hoops which has seen falling numbers lately. It also has to do with the fact that the games are being played 12 time zones away. A perk of the NHL going to the games has always been to showcase their stars, but when games are on in the middle of the night in the U.S., who would really be watching? Lastly, injuries have become a big topic for debate. In the 2016 Games, New York Islanders star John Tavares suffered a major knee injury and owners always hold their breath when their star players take part in non-NHL related events.
It’s important to note the NHL is the only sports league that pauses for the Olympics.
Now that the NHL has come out and said it won’t stop for the Pyeongchang Games, the questions get more difficult to answer. Will the US send college players to the Games instead? Could there be a 11th hour deal to be made this summer? What does this mean for the 2022 Games in Beijing (a place the NHL wants to grow its market)? How will the players react to this? It’s no secret that they love representing their home countries. Some owners have publicly said they’d allow their players to attend, and others have come out against it completely.
As a fan, I’m sad to see the players staying home, but I also completely understand where the owners are coming from. Shutting down the season for 3 weeks in the stretch run makes no sense, and I fully support this move by the NHL not to attend the 2018 Winter Games.