After months of speculation, bargaining, and negotiation, the NHL has made it official that it will not be going to the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea next February.
With an IOC-imposed April deadline looming, the NHL decided to release the story now in an effort to not overshadow the NHL playoffs, which begins in nine days, according to Sportsnet. The NHL put out the statement Monday and said it now considers the matter officially closed.
"We have previously made clear that while the overwhelming majority of our clubs are adamantly opposed to disrupting the 2017-18 NHL season for purposes of accommodating Olympic participation by some NHL players, we were open to hearing from any of the other parties who might have an interest in the issue (e.g., the IOC, the IIHF, the NHLPA, etc.) as to reasons the Board of Governors might be interested in re-evaluating their strongly held views on the subject," the statement read.
After defending its willingness to negotiate and try to come to an agreement that benefitted all parties involved, the league blamed the IOC and NHLPA for an unwillingness to negotiate a deal that would make it worth the NHL's while to head to South Korea next February.
"A number of months have now passed and no meaningful dialogue has materialized. Instead, the IOC has now expressed the position that the NHL's participation in Beijing in 2022 is conditioned on our participation in South Korea in 2018. And the NHLPA has now publicly confirmed that it has no interest or intention of engaging in any discussion that might make Olympic participation more attractive to the clubs. As a result, and in an effort to create clarity among conflicting reports and erroneous speculation, this will confirm our intention to proceed with finalizing our 2017-18 regular season schedule without any break to accommodate the Olympic Winter Games."
Commissioner Gary Bettman, who is employed by the owners to carry out their best interests, has repeatedly made it known that the owners across the league were opposed to participation in the 2018 PyeongChang Games for numerous reasons, including logistics, travel, safety, and scheduling issues. NHL players have attended the last five Winter Olympics since 1996, but issues and concerns were raised by several owners ahead of the Sochi Games in 2014. The league ended up going to Russia thanks to a $14-million concession made by the IOC to cover some major costs such as travel and accommodations—but the IOC was reportedly unwilling to offer that again this time around.
Quite simply, the Olympic Committee proved it doesn't value NHL players enough to pull out the cheque book and make it worth the league's while. The NHL proved the opinions and wishes of its star players don't matter all that much when it comes to matters of business, and the PA stood its ground and wasn't willing to make the necessary concessions, either.
Everyone's to blame, but the growth of the game in Asia is what will suffer most, and now the best hockey players in the world will not be taking part in the Winter Games' most marquee event. It's a loss for everyone.