Roving reporter Vince Comunale explains the reason why NHL players are unlikely to skate in another Winter Olympic Games.
Is the NHL considering extinguishing the Olympic torch on NHL players participating in future Winter Olympics? The simple answer is yes.
With the 2018 winter games scheduled to take place in South Korea, a non-hockey playing country, and the times of games not being conducive for North American television, expect the NHL to announce that they will not be participating.
The reasons to not send NHL players go much deeper than just those stated above.
For starters, the NHL does not like that it is not the beneficiaries of the revenue created by having its players participate, nor does it like the risk that its players face both on and off the ice.
Further, the NHL does not like shutting down its season for three weeks and also having to cancel the revenue-generating all-star game.
Lastly, the games themselves are operated under the International Ice Hockey Federation’s rules, which are slightly different (and some say better) than the NHL’s rules.
The NHL began allowing its players participate in the Winter Olympics in 1998 when the games took place in Nagano, Japan. The novelty of NHL players participating in the games offset the fact that the games were being held in a non-traditional hockey market.
In 2002, the games were held in Salt Lake City, Utah to the delight of the NHL in that their players did not have to travel overseas. The 2006 games headed back overseas to Turino, Italy and in 2010 the games were back in North America in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Of course this year’s games are being held on Sochi, Russia. Had the NHL chosen to not allow its players to participate this time around there may have been a revolt amongst the Russian NHL players. Alex Ovechkin actually stated that he would go anyway if the NHL chose not to allow its players to go.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman is on record as saying he prefers the World Cup to the Olympics and would like to see the World Cup tournament re-instituted.
The World Cup was last played in 2004 and was the successor to the very popular Canada Cup which ran every three to five years from 1976 to 1991. While the Canada Cup was played under IIHF rules, the World Cup was sanctioned by the NHL and played under NHL rules. Both tournaments were played in the summer, thus allowing each country to have all of its best players at their disposal.
Indications are that the World Cup of Hockey will return in August and September of 2016. The NHL is working on a new transfer agreement with the IIHF that would pave the way for the World Cup to resume and be played on a regular basis; supposedly every two years.
The only scenario that might save NHL players in the Olympics would be if the International Olympic Committee decided to hold the ice hockey at the Summer Olympics, not unlike how basketball is held at the summer games, thus allowing NBA players to participate without interrupting the NBA’s season.
With this scenario coming to fruition being far-fetched at best, enjoy the 2014 men’s ice hockey tournament because once the Olympic torch is extinguished in Sochi, it might be lights out for NHL players in the Olympics.