Every four years the entire world gets an opportunity to experience the winter Olympics. The biggest stage for international winter sports competition. This year was an exciting display of sport. In women’s ice hockey the United States snapped a 20 year gold medal streak of the Canadians. The women’s gold medal game was decided by a shootout. Can you say “close game”?
However, in the case of men’s ice hockey a major shake up of the available talent pool diluted the talent pool for each and every country. This year the NHL commissioner and an “overwhelming majority” of club owners decided to bar NHL players from participating in men’s Olympic ice hockey. The reason? Money.
You can read up on the commissioner of the NHL’s reasoning here.
Allow me to provide a passionate explanation why the NHL owners and commissioner’s decision to keep NHL players out of the Olympics is a bad idea for the sport of hockey.
Today, the surge of interest in sports that do not get a healthy amount of media coverage has been diluted when it comes to men’s Olympic ice hockey.
“I think the realities of Olympic participation are more apparent to our Board now and I think it just leads to less enthusiasm about the disruption,” Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said during NHL All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles in January. “Quite frankly we don’t see what the benefit is from the game standpoint or the League standpoint with respect to Olympic participation.”
What a shifty way to cryptically say the NHL doesn’t see a financial benefit.
As an avid hockey (not just the NHL) fan I am severely disappointed. The most elite hockey players facing off against one another representing their country. It goes beyond the teams you play for that pay you money. It is an honor not taken lightly by any Olympic athlete. Now, simply because they are in face the very best in the world NHL players have been stripped of their chance to represent their country. I can remember exactly where I was in 2010 when the United States Men’s team lost in overtime to Canada. That Gold Medal game was an absolute nail biter until the very end. Again, in 2014 the demise of the American men’s ice hockey was dealt by the hands of the Canadian’s. However, this time the USA fell apart in the preceding games and failed to even earn a medal. The Olympics have represented the purest and most competitive level spanning centuries and for now, men’s Olympic ice hockey has been stripped of it’s elite competition.
So how is the United State’s team doing this year? Well, the men’s team comprised of young college and minor league players were facing off against the likes of Pavel Datsyuk and Ilya Kovalchuk, both ex-NHL players that have won the Stanley Cup multiple times in a qualifying. Datsyuk and Kovalchuk are playing in the KHL the second most elite professional ice hockey league in the world. Many other countries have players from ohe professional leagues around Europe. Says a lot about the NHL doesn’t it? If the KHL, and other second-tier leagues, are willing to interrupt their schedule for the Olympics, why can’t they?
Gary Bettmen, the commissioner of the NHL claims that the funds given to them by the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) would be taking away from growing the sport of hockey at the grass rootes level. Out of all my years playing and watching hockey I have never heard of so much drama revolving around money in the sport until this cycle of the winter Olympics. I’ve also never heard Bettmen talking about growing the sport at the “grass roots” level. Only the TV contracts and new expansion teams.
The future is quite bleak for NHL players competing in the next Olympics as well. With the addition to the Las Vegas Golden Knights and Seattle’s application for an NHL team it seems that the only thing the NHL board, the commissioner of the NHL and the team owners is the bottom line.