NHL Participation at 2018 Olympics Appears Unlikely

And players, from Ovechkin to McDavid, aren't happy about it.

by Kyle Cantlon
Jan 30 2017, 9:09pm

Photo by Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Barring the second coming of a miracle on ice, it appears that NHL players will not be participating at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Many, including superstars like Alex Ovechkin, Jonathan Toews and Connor McDavid, are understandably opposed to the league's most recent stand and seemingly final decision on NHL participation in the next Winter Olympics.

Both NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly and commissioner Gary Bettman delivered the not-so-well received news during All-Star weekend in Los Angeles after it was confirmed during a Saturday Board of Governors meeting that the league plans to withhold from the next Olympic Games unless "game-changing" discussions take place soon.

"If the status quo remains, I don't expect us to be in the Olympics," said Daly. "As of right now, there's not a will [to participate]."

"Quite frankly, we don't see what the benefit is from a league standpoint to Olympics participation."

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Though costs appeared to be the original hurdle the league and NHLPA were having trouble overcoming, Bettman confirmed on Saturday the potential decision to skip the first winter Olympics since NHL players began participating in 1996 is more about scheduling than finances.

"I think there's concern from teams about the ongoing disruption in the season. The schedule. A whole host of other things. I've never said that just raising the money was the issue.

"There were some [owners] that always hated it. And then there were some clubs that didn't give it much thought until the IOC said they're not going to pay the expenses. And that's when they said, 'Wait a minute, why are we knocking ourselves out [to go]?" Bettman explained.

The commissioner then said much of the same Sunday during an interview with CBC's Ron MacLean during the All-Star Game.

Several star players have been vocal in their desire to participate in all Olympics going forward, especially the next two in Pyeongchang and Beijing, as they are viewed as crucial for the NHL's attempt to break into the largely untapped Asian market. Named one of the NHL's top 100 players of all-time over the weekend, Ovechkin has been particularly vocal on the subject over the last year or so, stating in the past that he would strongly consider going to the Olympics whether the NHL decided to or not.

"I said what I said before. I'm pretty sure everybody wants to go," Ovechkin said on Saturday. "All my teammates in Washington, they want to go. I think it's great for hockey, great for us."

A number of the game's biggest stars have expressed their desire to play in the next Olympics. Photo by Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Toews, another active top-100 player, played a massive role in Canada's gold medal victories at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and the 2014 Sochi Games and also donned the Maple Leaf during Canada's 2016 World Cup of Hockey victory.

"I don't think it's just about Canadians wanting to go to the Olympics," Toews said on Sunday.

"Every guy at the NHL level wants to represent their country at that level. If you ask me, I don't think you can really compare it to the World Cup or the world championships... the Olympics are a whole other thing."

McDavid, the league's best young player (and maybe best player, period) has yet to rock the red and white on the Olympic stage, but would have been an integral part of Team Canada in South Korea.

"NHL players should be there and I certainly hope they are there," McDavid said. "There's a lot of people higher up than me that are going to be figuring that one out, but 100 percent they should go.

"I can't picture an Olympics without [NHL players] to be honest."

When it comes to NHL player participation in the next Olympics, the owners and players are clearly on different pages. What a shocker.