The NHL Players’ Association slammed the league’s Monday announcement that it will not shut down for two weeks next season to participate in the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics.
The NHL started its run of Olympic participation with the Nagano Games in 1998 and players have often strongly voice support for the Olympics ever since.
Here is the NHLPA’s statement in its entirety:
The players are extraordinarily disappointed and adamantly disagree with the NHL’s shortsighted decision to not continue our participation in the Olympics.
Any sort of inconvenience the Olympics may cause to next season’s schedule is a small price to pay compared to the opportunity to showcase our game and our greatest players on this enormous international stage.
A unique opportunity lies ahead with the 2018 and 2022 Olympics in Asia. The NHL may believe it is penalizing the IOC or the players, or both, for not giving the owners some meaningful concessions in order to induce them to agree to go to PyeongChang. Instead this impedes the growth of our great game by walking away from an opportunity to reach sports fans worldwide.
Moreover, it is doing so after the financial issues relating to insurance and transportation have been resolved with the IOC and IIHF. The League’s efforts to blame others for its decision is as unfortunate as the decision itself. 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. It is very unfortunate for the game, the players and millions of loyal hockey fans.”
For the most part, this statement shows two entities that don’t view this decision the same way.
The NHL’s statement said the league’s Governors “are adamantly opposed to disrupting the 2017-18 NHL season for purposes of accommodating Olympic participation by some NHL players.”
The NHLPA tries to address this by calling scheduling issues a “small price to pay” for being able to take place in the Olympics.
In regards to the part of the NHLPA’s statement on the “unique opportunity” in Asia, the NHL has often seen the Beijing Games in 2022 as a better business scenario than going to South Korea. Recently the league announced it will have preseason games in China in 2017-18 between the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks.
“I don’t think the NHL was ever too enthusiastic about (the Olympics) but when it’s in Asia it becomes pretty much a non-event because it can’t be watched live,” a player agent told Puck Daddy.
The NHL’s initial issue with the 2018 Olympics that started it on this path had to do with the IOC’s decision to not pick up funding for players going to the Games. The IIHF said that it had figured out a way to pay for these costs, but this involved the governing body taking away money from member nations and their hockey development funds. The NHL had said this wasn’t enough and needed a “game-changer.”
Monday’s announcement by the NHL came after most team practices and morning skates, so player response has so far mostly been limited to tweets. Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price also spoke briefly with reporters before his team’s game at the Florida Panthers saying, “At a human level, (Olympics) is a big, worldwide event that the world takes part in and we want to shine our light too.”
The NHLPA’s statement was the first major shot at the league by the players in what’s sure to be several to follow.
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