‘We consider the matter officially closed’ – NHL cancels player participation at 2018 Olympics
The decision centers on NHL fears over player injuries and financial concerns, and means that the league will not take an Olympic break during the 2017-2018 season.
However, the NHL has not ruled out participating in the Beijing Winter Olympics yet, leaving international ice hockey fans with hope that they will see the biggest stars of the game in 2022.
"We have previously made clear that 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.) A number of months have now passed and no meaningful dialogue has materialized," the NHL said in a statement on Monday.
“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 league stressed on its website.
In addition, the NHL has also published the results of polls conducted among fans in Canada and the United States, in which the majority were against players’ participation in the Games, with 73 percent in the US and 53 percent of fans in Canada voting against the break in NHL regular season.
Following the news, the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) called the decision “sad news for hockey fans."
“The IIHF is deeply disappointed to hear of Commissioner Bettman's decision not to have National Hockey League players take part in the 2018 Olympic Winter Games,” said IIHF President René Fasel, as cited on the IIHF website.
He added that he sees the ruling as “a decision that robs ice hockey fans.”
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has also released a short statement on its website, saying that the decision must be a huge disappointment for the hockey players that were looking to participate at the Winter Olympics.
The committee has also stressed that it is non-profit organization, and cannot offer the NHL conditions different from those they offer to international sports federations.
“The ice hockey tournament at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 will nonetheless be a very exciting one, because the players from all the other professional ice hockey leagues will participate, and will be very much welcomed by their Olympic teams,” added the committee.
Russian ice hockey superstar Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals has been vocal about his opinion on the matter ever since there were first calls of the possible NHL ruling, saying that he will participate in the Olympics in any case.
Capitals’ owner Ted Leonsis had earlier expressed his support for his team’s captain.
"He knows I have his back on this one," Leonsis told ESPN.com last December.
"If this is what's so important to him and he wants to go to the Olympics, he should be able to do that."
Ovechkin is expected to state his position on the matter later today.