Why NHL players not going to Olympics is bad for hockey


Photo courtesy of Sportsnet

Ian Massaro, Reporter

The National Hockey League is home to the greatest hockey players on this planet. It’s the top hockey league in the world. And considering that the best players in the world play on this stage, the league comes with a strong level of diversity. There are players from the Czech Republic, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Switzerland, Russia, Belarus, of course the United States and Canada, and a few other miscellaneous countries as well.

  Now, with all of this diversity in the NHL, you would think that the league’s commissioner, Gary Bettman, would allow it’s players to represent their home countries in perhaps the largest series of sporting events ever created, the Olympics. But unfortunately for NHL players and fans, that’s just not the case.

  The NHL has banned its players from playing in the 2018 Winter Olympics and it has put many fans and most importantly players in outrage as they feel that they have worked hard to get to where they are now, but yet still can’t compete internationally. The NHLPA (National Hockey League Players’ Association) put out a statement in April 2017 about what the players think.

  “The players are extraordinarily disappointed and adamantly disagree with the NHL’s short sighted decision not to continue our participation in the Olympics,” the statement read. “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.”

  The NHL’s decision to disallow players from going to the Olympics ends a five time streak of NHL action in the Olympics. So why would the NHL do this? The answer isn’t so simple.

  One reason is the money. Bettman believes that sending NHL players to Pyeongchang will cost too much money as well as disrupt the NHL’s cash flow.

  He also believes that the Olympics can cause injury to these athletes and doesn’t want them coming back to the league hurt after the Olympics.

  This clearly makes no sense. NHL players have just as big of a chance of getting hurt in regular NHL games as they do getting hurt in Olympic games, if not a bigger chance because it’s their job to play in the NHL, not the Olympics.

  Secondly, Bettman feels that the NHL is already as international, especially considering the NHL just added the “Global Series” into some of the teams’ schedules. The Global Series is a series of games played between two NHL teams in a foreign country. The league did this to make an attempt at getting other countries interested in NHL hockey. This is also backwards to me as I believe that the NHL didn’t need to add a Global Series at all because the Olympics were already getting people involved in NHL hockey as they got to see the best players in the world play. But now they have to settle for watching amateurs from different countries play. They’re not watching the best of the best. They’re not watching the fast pace, NHL level hockey that everyone knows and loves.

  Lastly, Bettman thinks that the Olympics are too inconvenient. He says that the league doesn’t want the NHL to have to put its season on hold for most of February for the Olympics. He doesn’t want NHL teams to get split up for three weeks because he feels that if that happens, the NHL would pretty much be making no money from games for three weeks straight. While this might be his strongest point yet, it still doesn’t add up to me. He wants the NHL to make more money because it’s a business and that’s what businesses do. So you would think that sending NHL players to the Olympics and putting them on an international stage would get you more money and interest from fans all around the world. But no, Bettman doesn’t see that.

  The NHL has clearly made a mistake here and it’s disappointing for players and fans all around the world. This can easily be fixed in the future though. The NHL should allow their players to compete in the Winter Olympics in 2022 and beyond. Hopefully, Gary Bettman and the NHL sees that as such the next time they have to make a decision on going to the Winter Olympics.