NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has once again appeased NHL owners and upset their players. The NHL has decided not to participate in the 2018 Olympics.
The National Hockey League is out of the 2018 Olympics. Commissioner Gary Bettman fired off a litany of excuses on why the Board of Governors (head by Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs) wouldn’t consent to let their players play in the most respected tournament on the planet.
The league just couldn’t dot all the ‘i” cross all the ‘t’ it needed to make Olympic participation possible. The owners (citing season ending injuries to several players in Sochi, and other teams sending half their squads to the Olympics, only to get knocked out in the first round) didn’t like the loss of their players.
The NHL took polls to determine if the fans would accept an Olympic break. In Canada 53% of those polled objected to the break. In the US, the disapproval rate shot up to 73%. (To be fair, it was nice to see the league ask the fans what they wanted for once.)
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From the NHL’s website:
“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.
“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. We now consider the matter officially closed.”
The NHL’s exit ends an Olympics tradition going back to 1988. The league sent over 700 players to the Olympics since that agreement started.
How will the NHL’s exit affect the Boston Bruins?
The Black and Gold have seen their players excel in international competition. The Olympics are no exception. Last time around, Patrice Bergeron won the gold for Team Canada, Loui Eriksson won the Silver for Sweden’s Olympic team, and Tuukka Rask earned the Bronze for Finland.
Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand won gold for Team Canada in last year’s World Cup. One or (likely) both would have been shoo-ins for the Canadian Olympic Team. Tuukka Rask would have headed back as part of Team Finland as well.
David Pastrnak and David Krejci would have likely gone to play for the Czech Republic, and Zdeno Chara would have been on the Slovakian team. David Backes might have ended up on Team USA (as well as Torey Krug).
The Boston Bruins have been in a partnership with China’s O.R.G.. They’ve sent members of the team to China in an attempt to expand hockey to the world’s most populous country. With the 2022 Beijing Olympics now threatened, the Bruins might see that partnership damaged.
The players are disappointed. So will many hockey fans. It’s unfortunate that the league’s focus on making money (which seems odd because they happily wasted over $600 million to keep the Arizona franchise alive) will trump their chance to expand the love of hockey around the world.