By Andrew Lombardo,
Sports Business Writer
The NHL has participated in each Winter Olympic Games since 1998. However, the growing sentiment around the league is that the owners and Commissioner Gary Bettman are leaning the other way in regards to next year’s games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Last weekend’s All-Star weekend gave Commissioner Gary Bettman a chance to explain the status of the decision. “I think there’s concern from teams about the ongoing disruption in the season. The schedule. A whole host of other things.”
If the league were to participate in the games, it would interrupt the regular season for an entire two weeks. It also would make it nearly impossible to schedule an All-Star weekend, as most of the All-Stars would be competing in the games. They have not even finalized the regular season schedule yet, as they have a schedule with an Olympic break and one without it.
When the International Olympic Committee said it would no longer fund NHL player participation in its games, many were led to believe money was the reason behind the league’s indecision. Commissioner Bettman saw how some believed money was issue.
“What I think has happened is that there were some owners, over time, who probably thought the Olympics were a good idea. There were some that always hated it. And then there were some clubs that didn’t give it much thought until the IOC said they’re not going to pay the expenses. And that’s when they said, ‘wait a minute why are we knocking ourselves out [to go]?”
However, Bettman reiterated that it was never just one issue holding the league back from participating. “I’ve never said that just raising the money was the issue.” Regardless, the International Ice Hockey Federation has “found the money” to cover the league’s costs.
Whether or not the league participates is still up in the air. Many players still want to participate, including Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals. “All my teammates in Washington, they want to go. I think it’s great for hockey, great for us.” Only time will tell what the league decides to do. Until then, all we can do is speculate.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, February 7th print edition.
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