NHL players won't be participating in next year's Olympics and it's…somebody's fault, that's for damn sure. It's not the players, who want to go but (justifiably) refused to extend the owner-friendly CBA to make it happen. It's also not the IIHF's, hockey's international governing body, which offered to cover the expenses neither the IOC nor NHL wanted to pay. So, naturally, it's either the IOC's or NHL's fault. Or both. It's totally both.
Just when I thought I couldn't possibly have a crumb of sympathy for the IOC—an organization whose motto might as well be "you don't get rich by paying for things yourself"—here comes Bettman, like an older, balder, fatter version of the little girl from that BBC interview, busting into the room and waving his arms about proclaiming, "I am bad, too!"
The question, as far as I'm concerned, is: which of these two horrid, entirely self-interested entities should I be rooting to get embarrassed more?
That is not an easy question to answer. Generally speaking, the IOC is straight up irresponsible, while the NHL actively hates its fans to the point where it's not even controversial to point it out. If we're taking the grand scheme into account, the IOC has easily caused more harm than the NHL—think the millions that have been wronged by Olympic construction, displacement, and violence.
But looking more specifically at the Olympics hockey participation issue, the call is much tighter. Dave Lozo aptly summarized for this very website why the NHL's position is entirely full of shit, but, not to be one-upped, the IOC put out a statement that has me re-thinking my sympathies.
When you load the page, this is what you see:
The IOC's MO is to hide behind The Rings any time anything goes slightly awry, and they did it here again. Just look at those big, beautiful rings, everyone.
Once you scroll down, you'll find the IOC's statement begins thusly:
"THIS MUST BE A HUGE DISAPPOINTMENT FOR THE PLAYERS…THE IOC FEELS VERY SORRY FOR THE ATHLETES."
The IOC has never been about caring for the athletes. Not the NHL players, nor any of the others that compete in the Olympics. You know how I know this? Because they don't share any of their billions of dollars in profit with them. Instead, it "distributes" that money to the other governing bodies that enrich themselves through the "Olympic Movement," and if those organizations find it in their interest to fund athletes, well, all the better. In the United States, for example, that means the USOC enriches themselves while players go broke. To begin their statement by mentioning the players is just more Olympic smarm. You know who the IOC feels sorry for? The IOC.
Given the fact that the NHL is actively working against its long-term interest for a few measly immediate dollars, I'm tempted to wish worse embarrassment upon them. The main problem, though, is Bettman is immune to shame. This a man who, every single June, gets out in the middle of the ice gets booed by 20,000 people as he smiles a gigantic, shit-stained grin. No matter what other people think of him, he thinks he can power the league to profit through his own sense of self-satisfaction.
The IOC, while insular and naval-gazing, survives on its reputation and Olympic Rings copyright. It feels somehow possible to PR-shame the Olympics into doing something halfway decent, even if that feeling is barely justified by historical precedent. Still, if you gave me an hour with the IOC, I'd have a slight, miniscule chance of convincing them its in their collective interest to act a certain way. Not so with Bettman.
In short, I want the IOC to get embarrassed more. Not because they're at more fault, or because they did something really wrong in this case, but because every ounce of energy poured into finger-wagging at Bettman are precious, wasted joules. Bettman has already played Russian roulette and stared us in the face as he's pulled the trigger over and over and over. He's even shot himself a few times. But he's still there. Grinning.