NHL Still Undecided On 2018 Olympics Participation

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and his owners see no benefit in shutting down part of the 2017-18 season and send players to the South Korea Olympics.

In a reversal of past policy, it seems that National Hockey League owners don’t want any part of the 2018 Winter Olympics. The NHL gladly took part in the 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014 Games but sending players to a country that isn’t all that important in NHL marketing, South Korea, doesn’t make much sense to the 31 owners.

The late George Young was one of the most astute men ever to be employed in the National Football League. George Young always figured money was at the heart of every problem in sports. The one time New York Giants General Manager once said, show me a player who would play for nothing and I will show you a liar. The George Young theory of everything is about money could easily be applied to the 2018 South Korea Winter Olympics and the participation of National Hockey League players in the event.

The International Olympic Committee doesn’t want to pay for NHL players travel and insurance in 2018 and the National Hockey League doesn’t want to pick up the estimated $10 million tab that the IOC refuses to pay. Of course, the IOC has no problem having other people pick up the cost of hosting the Olympics as every city that bids for the Summer or Winter Games has to guarantee that local taxpayers will pick up the bill for cost overruns. The IOC agreed to pick up NHL related costs in the five Winter Olympics from 1998 through 2014 but no more. The IOC is worried it has offered a bad example by picking up the hockey travel insurance costs and executives in tennis, basketball and golf might ask for the same thing and that would force the IOC to spend money needlessly. The whole inclusion of NHL players in the Olympics was solely for monetary reasons on both sides, the IOC got names and the NHL got global recognition. The partners could maximize money opportunities so it was a good fit but now the IOC cannot afford the travel and insurance costs. The NHL also has a global tournament so they don’t need the Olympics to promote the product. George Young was right when it came to sports, it’s all about money.

The NHL owners had no problem stopping the season in 2014 and allowed players to compete in the Sochi Olympics in a hockey loving country, Russia.

 

To play or not to play in the 2018 Winter Olympics, that is the question still facing National Hockey League owners and National Hockey League players. Apparently, the players want to go to South Korea and compete for the gold but the players’ association won’t extend the collective bargaining agreement by three years in a trade off with the owners who are negative in their feelings of shutting down the season for two weeks. South Korea is just not that important of a hockey area. There will be hockey played in South Korea, but if the NHL says no to going that will strip the hockey portion of the Games of some, not all, of the biggest names in the sport. After all, the Kontinental Hockey League and various European hockey leagues could suspend their seasons to send players along with college and junior players to South Korea

 

The NHL probably does not want to miss out on the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics even though there is scant interest in the game in China. So, it is conceivable that the NHL will just sit out the 2018 Olympics and be content with staging the World Cup of Hockey every four years. But the World Cup of Hockey is not going to reach the same number of people who watch the Olympics. It is strictly a tournament for hard core hockey fans and needs to be expanded beyond the greater Toronto area and into some American and European cities. The decision on allowing NHL players to compete in the 2018 Olympics in South Korea needs in January. The 2017-2018 schedule is a consideration as dates have to be locked in at various arenas and there are promotional considerations such as outdoor games that have to be scheduled and promoted. South Korea is not a high NHL priority but China should be in 2022.

 

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