The NHL announced this afternoon that they will not be participating in the upcoming Olympics in PyeongChang. Surprised? We probably shouldn’t be.
When I last wrote about the Olympics, Gary Bettman said that no negotiations were upcoming and apparently he meant it. At this point, the reasons for not going have ranged from not wanting to disrupt the regular season, to being worried about injuries, to the more likely scenario of being annoyed that the owners are unable to capitalize off of the tournament itself. When asked about the Olympics on March 21st, Bettman said:
“The point is I was trying to emphasize the fact that this is terribly disruptive to our business and there seems to be no offsetting way to mitigate that disruption. “When the IOC comes to us and says, by the way, we know it will cost $15 to $20 million to send your players between insurance, charter costs and accommodations for the players. Well… we’re not going to pay for that. If they don’t value our participation (then) why are we going?”
Clearly, neither the NHL nor the IOC budged from their positions and now it’s hockey fans that are going to pay for it. What doesn’t make sense to me is how the NHL is actively looking to grow the game in Asia, but, in the same breath, will call the Olympics a major disruption to their season. Sure, taking two weeks out of the year may a hassle but let’s not pretend that this isn’t about the fact that they can’t cash in on their players competing for their country.
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For hockey fans, the news of an NHLless Olympics was like watching someone slowly lift their foot off the ground and use it to kick you in the pills – we probably shouldn’t be surprised but that doesn’t make it hurt any less.
Having NHLers at the Olympics has been one of the biggest reasons to get into the winter games and I think it’s fair to say that many of us were hoping that Bettman’s “don’t hold your breath” comments were nothing more than negotiating for a better deal. That said, I’m not sure why we were hopeful for a different result considering Bettman has already overseen three lockouts under his tenure – what does he care about the Olympics?
I’m not sure how into the Spengler Cup you guys are but it looks like we’ll be getting an Olympic version of it as we’ll all be cheering for junior kids/college bros/European pros to bring home the threepeat for Canada on the men’s side.
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