Fans expecting to see NHL stars on the ice for the 2018 Winter Olympics will be disappointed. The NHL announced in April 2017 that the league would not provide an Olympic break for players to represent their country in the 2018 Olympics. NHL teams will be playing games during the Olympics, and players are not excused to play in the games.
The NHL released a statement explaining why they came to this conclusion, emphasizing they had no desire to negotiate with the IOC to be allowed to participate in the 2022 Olympics.
We have previously made clear that while the overwhelming majority of our clubs are adamantly opposed to disrupting the 2017-18 NHL season for purposes of accommodating Olympic participation by some NHL players, we were open to hearing from any of the other parties who might have an interest in the issue (e.g., the IOC, the IIHF, the NHLPA, etc.) as to reasons the Board of Governors might be interested in re-evaluating their strongly held views on the subject. A number of months have now passed and no meaningful dialogue has materialized. Instead, the IOC has now expressed the position that the NHL’s participation in Beijing in 2022 is conditioned on our participation in South Korea in 2018. And the NHLPA has now publicly confirmed that it has no interest or intention of engaging in any discussion that might make Olympic participation more attractive to the clubs. 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.
According to NHL.com, this marks the first Winter Olympics since 1994 that the NHL has not participated in. The good news is the playing field is even as no country will have NHL players on their Olympic roster. What players will take their place on the ice? Countries will feature a combination of players from other leagues as well as college hockey players. Keep in mind this does not prevent teams from having former NHL players on their roster.
Time reported that part of the NHL’s decision represents tension between the two parties over the insurance policy during the Olympics.
Ahead of the 1998 Winter Olympics, the IOC and NHL agreed on a deal that would bring NHL players to the Games with their costs and insurance covered by the IOC. The IOC decided to stop covering those costs, since the IOC does not do so for other professional sports leagues like the National Basketball Association…Covering insurance was an obstacle for the IOC; insurance for NHL players cost the organization $7 million during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, according to the New York Times.
In other words, NHL teams do not want athletes getting injured during the Olympics, and risk having a player unable to compete once the competition is over. The National Hockey League Players’ Association released a statement disagreeing with the league’s decision.
The players are extraordinarily disappointed and adamantly disagree with the NHL’s shortsighted decision to not continue our participation in the Olympics.
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.
A unique opportunity lies ahead with the 2018 and 2022 Olympics in Asia. The NHL may believe it is penalizing the IOC or the players, or both, for not giving the owners some meaningful concessions in order to induce them to agree to go to PyeongChang. Instead this impedes the growth of our great game by walking away from an opportunity to reach sports fans worldwide… 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.
It will be interesting to see if an agreement can be reached for the 2022 Olympics.