As it stood, Vancouver 2010 was the last time the NHL was “supposed” to be sending NHL players to the Olympics. Sure, they are going to attend Sochi for this years Olympics, but only because top stars like Alexander Ovechkin and Evengi Malkin called out the NHL and said regardless of their decision, they would be attending the games in their homeland of Russia. With enough Russian players playing in the NHL, they had no choice but to head to Sochi for 2014 or face a mass exodus of Russian born hockey players for 2 weeks.
However, the 2018 Winter Games are being slated for South Korea and there is no deal in place at the moment to send NHL players to compete for Olympic gold in men’s hockey. And I for one, don’t think there will be.
South Korea is not known for it’s hockey players. I can’t think of a single player in the NHL whose heritage is Korean. So the NHL will not be bullied into going to the 2018 games since only the fans will put pressure on the league. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman barely bows down to his players and even less to it’s fans, so I doubt that would have any effect. After all, the NHL HATES the Olympics.
But why does the NHL hate Olympic hockey?
Number 1 money. As far as the NHL is concerned, it’s lost revenue. Their players are playing for someone else and not making the NHL any money. As well the league has to virtually shut down during the Olympics and cannot gain any revenue for over two weeks.
Another factor is injuries and insurance. Even though the game isn’t as physical in the international realm or with the more open ice, injuries still happen. Especially small injuries like groin pulls. It happens every Olympics. Some of the best players get injured and miss the last 20 games of the season or even worse the playoffs. The leagues best players are represented in the Olympics and the best players are also at risk of injury.
Even though there is a risk and a loss of revenue, the NHL should think twice about not attending future Winter Olympics. Right now Hockey is considered to be North America’s 4th largest sport. The NHL is constantly trying to grow the game and revenues. This can be witnessed by them starting the season with some teams playing in Europe or any of the outdoor style games. You’d think that the Olympics would only raise interest in the game of hockey on an international level.
But it seems that Gary Bettman just doesn’t get it. After all he is the man that’s been at the helm of the NHL for far too long and just doesn’t seem to understand what fans want. Whether it’s trying to break into an American market that just doesn’t want a team or ignoring Canadian markets that do, Bettman only works for the team owners. And the team owners do not want to see their players risk anything outside of their teams clubhouse.
Olympic hockey, I’ll enjoy you this year, because it might just be your last.