The NHL has elected not to participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, marking the first time in 20 years the world’s top hockey league won’t be represented at the sport’s premier international competition.
NHL players have played in every Winter Olympics since the 1998 games in Nagano, but concerns over injury risk and lost television revenue prompted the league to pull out of next year’s tournament.
“We have previously made clear,” the NHL said in statement Monday, “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 (e.g., the IOC, the IIHF, the NHLPA, etc.) as to reasons the Board of Governors might be interested in re-evaluating their strongly held views on the subject.
“A number of months have now passed and no meaningful dialogue has materialized. 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.
“As a result, and 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 time difference between North America and Sochi, Russia, meant many games during the 2014 Olympics aired in the early morning hours in the United States and Canada, and the South Korea setting of the upcoming Olympiad will present similar logistical issues.
It remains to be seen — and we likely will not know for quite some time — whether the NHL will agree to send players to the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. The league has made strides to raise its profile in the Chinese market in recent years and will play exhibition games in Beijing and Shanghai next season.
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