Pyeongchang and the missing NHL
If you’re paying attention to men’s ice hockey during these winter games, you’re likely not hearing some names you would usually hear. Team USA is missing McDonagh, Kane, and Parise. Team Canada is without Crosby, Toews and Tavares. European teams are short big name players as well, such as Henrik Lundqvist (Sweden), Zdeno Chara (Slovakia),
and Alex Ovechkin (Russia/OAR). These familiar names are missing because the National Hockey League (NHL) didn’t allow their players to partake in the Olympic games this year
A lot of people are not happy with this.
Including some players.
The past five winter Olympics have featured NHL players, with the NHL estimating an average of 141 players per Games. During the Olympics, the NHL takes a two-week break, shutting down all regular season games to accommodate for the missing players. This time around the NHL said “Not interested,” after a series of disputes between the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the NHL over costs (the IOC had previously covered the costs of travel, insurance, accommodations and costs for NHL players but refused to do so in 2018). Even when the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) offered to cover the cost, the NHL still declined, saying the break was disruptive to the season, players could get injured and jeopardize the rest of the NHL season, and in the U.S. and Canada, the majority of fans were not in favor of it.
Was this the right call? What we’ve seen so far in Pyeongchang is a men’s ice hockey product that is lackluster. The most excitement has come from the referees.
Was this the right call to make? One could argue that the Olympic playing field may be more level now. Pulling the NHL players pulls out much of the star power from the traditional powerhouse teams of Canada, USA, and whatever we are calling Russia these days. However, looking at the team rosters from the 2014 Sochi Olympics, teams Slovakia, Finland, Sweden, and the Czech Republic also had rosters that boasted a fair number of NHL players.
The decision never seemed to be about leveling the playing field though. The decision seemed to be purely financial on both sides of the coin. A financial decision, which, in the end, seems to be hurting the overall impression of men’s ice hockey this year. The gold medal game is always the final event to air during the winter Olympics. This year, will anyone really care...…