After months of back and forth speculation, the NHL announced today that it will not be participating in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. This decision has been one that the NHL has battled with for a while, as players, coaches, and owners have all been outspoken, and have had differing opinions throughout. This will end the NHL's run of five straight Winter Olympics with NHL players.
The Winter Olympics forces the NHL to postpone and disrupt their season, by either trying to postpone games, or by having teams play without certain players, but either way it has been somewhat of a debacle. The NHL had said for a few months that they were open to dialogue and discussion around the matter, from both sides, but they now feel that after these months of dialogue have not amounted to anything meaningful.
The Commissioner, Gary Bettman, has stressed over the last few months that the owners were almost unanimously against being a part of the Winter Olympics, for several reasons, but the most major one being the proposed 17-day break in the season schedule in February of 2018. That time period also happens to be a peak time for the NHL, when the NFL has just finished up, and the MLB has still not started.
The NHL conducted polls in the U.S. and Canada among the fans, where 73% of Americans were against the 17-day season break, and 53% of Canadians were against.
One of the biggest supporters of the NHL participating, was the Washington Capital's superstar Alexander Ovechkin, who stated several times over the past few months that he will play in the Olympics - whether the rest of the NHL is or not. We will have to wait and see what comes of this, because I don't know the legalities around this, if Ovechkin will be fined or what, but this is definitely something to watch.
This is big news in the hockey world, and for the Winter Olympics in general, and while the NHL has participated in all of the winter games since 1998, this may become the precedent for the league.