The league’s decision? A firm “no”.
“In an effort to create clarity among conflicting reports and erroneous speculation, this will confirm our intention to proceed with finalizing our 2017-18 regular season schedule without any break to accommodate the Olympic Winter Games. We now consider the matter officially closed,” the NHL said in a statement.
Conversation over. No ifs, ands or buts. Despite the league’s ruling, there are some players including New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist and Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson who have voiced their opposition to the decision. There are other players, including Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin, who said they’ll still play in the Olympics no matter what the NHL says.
There are a few questions to be asked now. Where does a player prioritize his national pride (and possible repercussions from his team/league if he does so)? How does the NHL deal with the fallout of preventing some of the world’s top players from playing on the grandest stage? Does this tarnish the global view of the league by having a stranglehold on its players? How will hockey in the Olympics be affected moving forward?
A total of 706 NHL players have participated in the Olympics since 1998, but the league’s future with the Games remains in doubt. According to the NHL, “the IOC (International Olympic Committee) has now expressed the position that the NHL’s participation in Beijing in 2022 is conditioned on our participation in South Korea in 2018.”
This decision could have long-lasting effects if neither the NHL or IOC budge and welcome the other back with open arms. It will forever change the landscape of international hockey. Whether it’s for the better or worse is still to be determined.