The NHL’s Olympic Problem

By now, everybody knows that after months of deliberation the NHL has officially decided that they will not be competing in the 2018 Olympics in South Korea. While we have been anticipating this outcome for months the decision and announcement still comes as a blow to the entire hockey community, players and fans alike. The NHL has participated in every winter games since 1998. 

The announcement came late Monday afternoon with a statement from the NHL

“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.”

Understanding the NHL’S Point of View…

While it may be hard for fans to grasp the NHL is still a business. Creating a 17-day halt in the middle of the regular season to send players to the Olympics isn’t something that the NHL or the owners want. In doing so, they are halting the progress of their league and potentially creating shifts in momentum. A team that is on a hot streak could be hurt by the break.  The owner’s standpoint can’t be ignored. Not only are teams sending their best talents to represent their countries they are risking injury and potentially costing a team a playoff race. Teams are also losing revenue during the Olympics due to the lack of home ticket sales, game night revenue and game broadcasts.

Let’s go back to “risking injury” concept. It is a trickle down effect. If a player like Henrik Lundqvist gets hurt at the Olympics then the money that the Rangers will make moving forward will be diminished. People pay to see Henrik. Additionally, people pay to see good teams. If the Rangers are unable to ice their best team due to an injury that occurred elsewhere in a tournament that ultimately meant nothing for their franchise, then it’s easy to see why the owners, coaches and other teammates would be upset. Additionally, if an injury was to seriously jeopardize the chance of a team making the playoffs then the team would also lose revenue from playoff games.

The NHL’s participation in the Olympics however provides multiple benefits for the league, its players and the sport of hockey in general. Playing for one’s country is a huge selling point for the Olympics. Though there has been concerns, the exposure that the sport of hockey has gotten as a result of Olympic participation cannot be ignored.

Who could forget TJ Oshie’s performance in the 2014 Olympics in a shootout against Russia. He was refereed to as an “American Hero.”

Player Responses

An issue no one seems to consider is the way the lack of Olympic participation hinders the players. They are missing their opportunity to play in the Olympics. Some players are taking it upon themselves to speak out now that the decision is apparently finalized.

In September, Alexander Ovechkin made it clear that he would be playing in the Olympics no matter what.

Whether or not the NHL would agree to participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics was up in the air but Alexander Ovechkin intended on representing Russia either way.

Some of the game’s biggest stars made their opinions known in interviews, as well as through Twitter posts. New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist took to twitter to express his disappointment, as well as San Jose Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic who made a silent, but powerful message with a 
picture on Twitter.  

While the NHL may have closed the door on the talks of Olympic participation, the story may not be done quite yet.

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