It is the biggest global event that happens every 4 years. The Winter Olympics will be taking place in February 2018 in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
So far, the NHL is not giving out any positive reviews of the next Winter Olympic games. Gary Bettman and several NHL executives seem reluctant to travel to the next Winter games. Many league executives are not crazy about shutting down the league for a 3-week period in 2018.
Travel costs and player insurance is a major concern. In previous years, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has paid for the cost of travel, insurance, and accommodations for the players. The IOC has not said if they will be covering the expenses for the 2018 Olympic games, and this has now become an on-going battle with the NHL.
THE GOOD AND BAD WITH THE 2018 WINTER OLYMPICS
The next Olympic games are far away from North America. The games are essentially taking place on the other side of the world.
Most owners are naturally concerned about player injuries that can happen during the Olympics. They are also concerned about having a compressed schedule during the regular season, as players will be more fatigued throughout the season. The travel and the wear and tear on the players are major concerns with owners and league executives.
When it comes to the players, most would love to represent their country on the international stage. It is one of the greatest individual honors to represent the country one comes from.
One of the best things with the Winter Olympics is that it is a global event. The best hockey players from all around the world will represent their countries in front of a global audience. While the World Cup of Hockey had an Olympics-based format with several different countries represented, it did not have the global audience that the Winter Olympics will have.
LET THE PLAYERS PLAY
The Winter Olympics do not happen very often. It occurs once every four years. Most players will get to play in 3-5, if they are lucky enough.
It is not often that the top NHL players get to suit up and represent the country that they play for. I think it would be a disappointment for the league if the players are not permitted to play.
What is going to happen if the NHL does not let its players go to the Olympics? I believe that some players will go to the Winter Olympics, whether the NHL allows it or not. Alex Ovechkin is one of those players that has openly spoken about the Olympics, and he will likely attend the Olympics even if the NHL does not go.
Ovechkin has the support from Capitals owner Ted Leonsis on attending the Olympics. Ovechkin’s persistence to attend the Olympics may spark a major movement from other players around the league. Ovechkin is one of the world’s most notable hockey stars, and his Olympic movement will probably encourage other NHL Russian stars to attend the Olympics.
Could the same thing happen with someone like Canadian star Connor McDavid? McDavid has never played on the Winter Olympic stage, and would likely be one of Team Canada’s top players on their roster. Like Ovechkin, could McDavid start a movement with other top Canadian players on going to the Olympics?
If the NHL wants to grow their business, the owners and executives need to let their players get exposure on the international stage. Hockey is a global sport, and many players come from all over the world. The owners and executives need to respect the fact that players want to play and represent their countries. Winning a gold medal is the equivalent to winning the Stanley Cup to a lot of players. If Gary Bettman and the owners want hockey to grow, they should not prevent their players from going to the Olympics.
By: George Foussekis