NHL players have competed in the past five Winter Olympics, dating to 1998. The 2018 Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, will be different. The league will not take a break next season to allow players to participate, as it has during recent Olympic seasons. But, even though NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in April that he considers “the matter officially closed,” confusion still surrounds the conversation — or perhaps it’s just fans holding out hope that they’ll see top players take the Olympic ice after all. Here’s a primer on where things stand and what’s at stake.
Wait, so NHL players really aren’t going?
Not with the league’s blessing. The NHL scheduled its 2018 All Star Game for Jan. 28 in Tampa, Florida — just two weeks before the Olympics begin, on Feb. 9; the last three times NHL players went to the Olympics (2006, 2010, 2014), there has not been an NHL midseason showcase. Then, in June, the league unveiled its 2017-18 regular-season schedule, with no Olympic break built in. It would be wholly unprecedented to re-arrange a schedule after it has been publicly released. The NHL is not going to budge.
What do the players have to say about it?
Some of the league’s biggest stars — Henrik Lundqvist, Connor McDavid, Alex Ovechkin, Carey Price, Jonathan Toews — have publicly expressed disappointment about not playing in the Olympics. As one veteran player agent told ESPN.com: “Good luck finding a player who thinks this is a good idea.” In April, the NHLPA called the decision “shortsighted,” adding that “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.”