USEUROPEAFRICAASIA 中文双语Français
Sports
Home / Sports / Hockey

NHL ices Olympics, says no to 2018 Games in South Korea

Updated: 2017-04-05 06:43

Decision could have bearing on 2022 Games

The National Hockey League announced on Monday it will not participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, refusing for the first time in 20 years to halt its season for three weeks so its stars can chase gold for their countries.

From Canada's Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid to Russia's Alex Ovechkin and Sweden's Henrik Lundqvist, the world's best players had indicated their willingness to take part in the Games, but the league decided otherwise.

Commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly informed the NHL Players' Association the matter was "officially closed" after weeks of speculation.

The NHLPA said in a statement that players are "extraordinarily disappointed and adamantly disagree with the NHL's shortsighted decision".

The NHL had allowed its players to participate in the past five Olympics dating to 1998, giving the Winter Games pro-level star power akin to the NBA players who participate in the Summer Olympics.

The league said no meaningful dialogue had emerged in talks with the NHLPA, International Olympic Committee and International Ice Hockey Federation.

NHL ices Olympics, says no to 2018 Games in South Korea

Even after the IIHF agreed to pay for players' travel and insurance costs when the IOC refused, the NHL was looking for more concessions that were believed to include marketing opportunities tied to the Games.

The league wanted the matter resolved before the playoffs begin on April 12.

"The league's efforts to blame others for its decision is as unfortunate as the decision itself," the NHLPA said.

"NHL players are patriotic and they do not take this lightly. A decent respect for the opinions of the players matters. This is the NHL's decision and its alone."

Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock, who helmed Canada to consecutive Olympic gold medals in 2010 and 2014, told Associated Press in a text message he was "disappointed".

Players immediately blasted the decision. Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price, in Sochi under Babcock, called it "very disappointing" and said it was short-changing younger players who hadn't got to experience it before.

"Disappointing news, (the NHL) won't be part of the Olympics 2018. A huge opportunity to market the game at the biggest stage is wasted," tweeted Lundqvist, the New York Rangers goaltender who won the 2006 Olympic gold medal with Sweden.

"But most of all, disappointing for all the players that can't be part of the most special adventure in sport," he added.

Player agent Allan Walsh tweeted: "Good to see the NHL and Gary Bettman always looking out for the good of the game. So much for that grand partnership with the players."

The NHL and NHLPA teamed up on the return of the World Cup of Hockey last fall, and had made strides on growing the sport internationally, including games in China later this year.

The NHL has not ruled out participating in the 2022 Olympics in Beijing, though the IIHF and IOC had indicated that could be conditional on the NHL going to South Korea. For now, the league is making its 2017-18 schedule without a break for the Olympics.

"We have previously made clear that, while the overwhelming majority of our clubs are adamantly opposed to disrupting the 2017-18 NHL season for purposes of accommodating Olympic participation by some NHL players, we were open to hearing from any of the other parties who might have an interest in the issue," the NHL said.

"Instead, the IOC has now expressed the position that the NHL's participation in Beijing in 2022 is conditioned on our participation in South Korea in 2018. And the NHLPA has now publicly confirmed that it has no interest or intention of engaging in any discussion that might make Olympic participation more attractive to the clubs."

The IOC and IIHF did not immediately respond to the NHL's decision.

The league has cited the 13-hour difference from Pyeongchang to the Eastern time zone as one of its concerns.

There was a 13-hour difference to Nagano in 1998, six to Turin in 2006 and nine to Sochi in 2014. Team owners have long complained that stopping the NHL season every four years wasn't worth it and they have been wary of injuries to star players.

Still, many players expressed a strong desire to go, and Ovechkin has said he plans to go regardless of NHL participation.

"I think the players know it's very important for us to represent our countries," the Washington Capitals superstar said. "Everybody wants to go there."

The NHL has not decided whether to allow teams to make decisions on a case-by-case basis about players participating in the 2018 Olympics.

"If Alex Ovechkin and Braden Holtby and Nick Backstrom tell us, 'We want to go play for our country,' how am I going to say no?" Capitals owner Ted Leonsis said last month.

"I might get fined, I might get punished in some way, but I feel I'm in partnership with Nick and Braden and Alex."

It was not immediately clear how Canada, the United States and other countries will fill Olympic rosters, though national federations have already begun planning for this possibility.

Hockey Canada said on Monday that the NHL's statement was not what it was hoping for but will not change Olympic preparation.

Games organizers still holding out hope

South Korean Olympic organizers still hope to see National Hockey League players competing at next year's Winter Games despite the NHL's insistence it won't happen.

Nancy Park, a spokesperson for the Pyeongchang 2018 organizing committee, said on Tuesday there's still time for "meaningful discussions" on Olympic participation between the NHL, NHL Players' Association, International Ice Hockey Federation and International Olympic Committee.

Park said the organizing committee is still hopeful that a "solution will be found for the 2018 Games".

The NHL announced it will not participate in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, refusing for the first time in 20 years to halt its season for three weeks so its stars can chase gold for their countries.

While the IIHF had agreed to pay for players' travel and insurance costs when the IOC refused, the NHL had been looking for more concessions that were believed to be linked with marketing opportunities tied to the Games.

The NHLPA responded to the league's announcement by saying players are "extraordinarily disappointed and adamantly disagree with the NHL's shortsighted decision".

The NHL has not decided whether to allow teams to make decisions on a case-by-case basis about players participating in the 2018 Olympics.

Pyeongchang 2018 organizers have been concerned about the possibility of NHL players skipping next year's Games as hockey has traditionally been the biggest draw during the Winter Olympics.

South Korea has never been a powerhouse in the sport, but has qualified for the tournament as host and has started beefing up its ranks. Associated Press

Most Popular

Highlights

What's Hot
BACK TO THE TOP
Copyright 1995 - . All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Without written authorization from CDIC, such content shall not be republished or used in any form. Note: Browsers with 1024*768 or higher resolution are suggested for this site.
License for publishing multimedia online 0108263

Registration Number: 130349
FOLLOW US