The looming specter of the NHL’s participation in the 2018 Winter Olympics loomed over the All-Star break, and now a few more players are expressing their eagerness to attend despite their owners’ wishes.
Gary Bettman repeatedly told the media over the weekend that the NHL is still intent on not making any concessions to the International Olympic Committee, who they believe should fund most of the travel expenses for players.
At the real heart of the issue, however, is the owners’ unwillingness to pause the 2017-18 season for two weeks, suspending business while players play in South Korea under inconsistent TV coverage.
MacLean: “So you think [Olympic participation] hasn’t meant a lot, then? You think you haven’t gotten the bang for your buck?”
Bettman: “It’s not a question [of that] … You know, when we were in Vancouver, or Salt Lake City, it’s a whole different Olympics. Particularly in terms of how it’s viewed and followed in North America. And the logistics are a lot easier in terms of travel and wear-and-tear. When you’re halfway around the world, the whole dynamic is completely different, including the coverage that the Games themselves get.”
After the NHL All-Star Game, Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews told reporters that, in his opinion, you “can’t really compare” the scale and prestige of the Olympics to the World Cup of Hockey.
“Quite frankly, I think to turn on the Olympics next year and watch hockey teams or the players representing their countries, if it’s not the best in the world, I don’t know,” said Toews. “I don’t know. I just feel like we’re misrepresenting our sport on a pretty huge scale and a pretty huge level. A lot of the talk has been it’s the players pushing for it, and it’s the players that are interested and want to go.
“I think the players do want to go, but I think it should be of interest to the players and the league. I think the NHL should be in the Olympics.”
And Toews isn’t the only player speaking out. Maple Leafs winger and American James van Riemsdyk followed suit …
There isn’t a specific timetable for when a decision needs to be made. But it sure seems like a situation where everyone (the IOC, the NHL’s owners, and the players) ends up happy isn’t likely.