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The National Hockey League to Miss the First Winter Olympic Games in 20 Years

19 Apr, 2017

By: Michael Popke

For the first time in 20 years, the National Hockey League will not participate in the Winter Olympic Games.

The announcement ended a long debate about whether the league would allow its players to skate for their native countries at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

For months, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman reiterated that team owners were against players participating in the Games for several reasons, including a 17-day break in the schedule during February. “I think the overwhelming sentiment of the teams is that it’s very disruptive on the season and there is somewhere between fatigue and negativity on the subject,” Bettman said at the league’s general managers meetings on March 8 in Boca Raton, Fla.

“The league had been looking for conciliatory offers from the International Olympic Committee and/or the NHL Players’ Association in order to placate an ownership group increasingly unhappy with the league shutting down for weeks to take part in the Olympic tournament every four years,” ESPN.com reports. “That didn’t happen, and the league made good on its promise to resolve the matter before the start of the Stanley Cup playoffs.”

According to NHL.com:

The NHL conducted polls in both Canada and the United States to determine if fans were in favor of the [l]eague taking a break in February to allow players to compete in the Olympics. In the United States, 73 percent said they were not in favor. In Canada, it was 53 percent against the break.

The NHL has participated in every Winter Olympics since 1998 with a total of 706 players attending, an average of 141 per season.

The IOC had been paying for the League’s participation costs associated with travel, insurance and accommodations for the players and their guests, but told the NHL it will not continue to pay for those costs for the 2018 tournament.

International Ice Hockey Federation President Rene Fasel indicated his federation had the money to cover those costs, but Commissioner Bettman said there was concern the funds would come from assets that would otherwise be used to grow the game at the grassroots level.

In addition, Commissioner Bettman has said that many teams have been concerned about the impact Olympic participation has on the NHL season in terms of player injuries and the compressed schedule created by the break in February.

While NHL brass consider the matter closed — and said as much — many players aren’t on board with the decision and took to Twitter to express their frustration.

“Way to ruin the sport of hockey even more Gary,” tweeted former Vancouver Canuck Brandon Prust (@BrandonPrust8). “A huge opportunity to market the game at the biggest stage is wasted,” echoed New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist (@HLundqvist30). And Carey Price, a Canadian goaltender for the Montreal Canadiens, had this to say: “You can’t replace the Olympics. I feel like we’re shortchanging some of the younger players that haven’t had that opportunity.” 

Of course, this opens the door to players from other leagues participating. In the U.S. alone, there are the American Hockey League (the NHL’s farm team), college hockey at both the NCAA and the American Collegiate Hockey Association levels, as well as junior leagues and those who play pond hockey at higher levels. There are also USA Hockey’s U-18 teams, which have done well. In other words, there’s no lack of players to make up a national team for the U.S. And those possibilities could lead to increased interest in other levels of hockey leading up to team selection time, since enthusiasts could start building the buzz about possible contenders for spots on Team USA.

All of this needs to concern sports planners, sports commissions and CVBs who work in cities where sheets of ice are used to host those non-NHL games. Without these players, will those teams be able to move forward during the Olympics? What will happen to the fans who normally attend those games? How quickly can competitive events be cancelled, and how soon can those sheets of ice be re-scheduled to host other events?

And honestly, there are plenty of options to use other athletes, should countries wish to field a national team. In the U.S. alone, there are the American Hockey League (the NHL’s farm team), college hockey at both the NCAA and the American Collegiate Hockey Association levels, as well as junior leagues and those who play pond hockey at higher levels. There are also USA Hockey’s U-18 teams, which have done well. In other words, there’s no lack of players who could make up a national team for the U.S., if need be.

And those possibilities could lead to increased interest in other levels of hockey leading up to team selection time, since enthusiasts could start building the buzz about possible contenders for spots on Team USA.

All of this needs to concern sports planners, sports commissions and CVBs who work in cities where sheets of ice are used to host those non-NHL games. Without these players, will those teams be able to move forward? What will happen to the fans who normally attend those games? How quickly can competitive events be cancelled, and how soon can those sheets of ice be re-scheduled to host other events?

- See more at: http://www.sportsdestinations.com/sports/hockey/nhl%E2%80%99s-threatened-pullout-olympics-could-put-sports-12132#sthash.7fo13nDL.dpuf

And honestly, there are plenty of options to use other athletes, should countries wish to field a national team. In the U.S. alone, there are the American Hockey League (the NHL’s farm team), college hockey at both the NCAA and the American Collegiate Hockey Association levels, as well as junior leagues and those who play pond hockey at higher levels. There are also USA Hockey’s U-18 teams, which have done well. In other words, there’s no lack of players who could make up a national team for the U.S., if need be.

And those possibilities could lead to increased interest in other levels of hockey leading up to team selection time, since enthusiasts could start building the buzz about possible contenders for spots on Team USA.

All of this needs to concern sports planners, sports commissions and CVBs who work in cities where sheets of ice are used to host those non-NHL games. Without these players, will those teams be able to move forward? What will happen to the fans who normally attend those games? How quickly can competitive events be cancelled, and how soon can those sheets of ice be re-scheduled to host other events?

- See more at: http://www.sportsdestinations.com/sports/hockey/nhl%E2%80%99s-threatened-pullout-olympics-could-put-sports-12132#sthash.7fo13nDL.dpuf

For a history of the Games’ impact on the league, click here.

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