‘North American snobbery & greed’: Russian official condemns NHL Olympic snub
The refusal to allow NHL stars to appear at the Beijing Olympics supposedly because of Covid concerns is a commercial step based on North American snobbery and greed, says Russian Deputy PM Dmitry Chernyshenko.
The NHL confirmed last week that its players would not be cleared to compete at the Winter Games in the Chinese capital in February.
Explaining the decision, the league cited the disruption to its season caused by Covid-19 and the need to reschedule postponed games during the period of the Olympics.
That means hockey fans will not see many of the sport’s biggest icons such as Russia’s Alexander Ovechkin and Canada’s Sidney Crosby turn out for their countries in China.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Chernyshenko – who was a key figure in organizing the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics – has hit out at the decision.
“I think it’s a mistake from the NHL that they always put commercial gains above the most important sporting competition,” Chernyshenko told RIA Novosti.
“I think it’s a kind of North American snobbery, mixed with plain greed, and even covered with concern for the health of hockey players.”
Chernyshenko is a former president of the Russia-based Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), which will now be expected to field a larger number of players for Olympics squads than it otherwise would have.
Some have claimed the decision by the NHL to snub the Beijing Games plays into the Russian team’s hands considering their KHL talent pool, although Chernyshenko said the changes would affect all teams.
“Every time at the Olympics there’s this kind of bargaining. When there are no arguments left, they cover it with Covid. But this a commercial, let’s say marketing story,” said the official.
“Our team has to win in any conditions, the absence of NHL players will change every team.
“The [Russian] team is training and will go to the final training camp soon. I’m sure the ‘Red Machine’ will perform with honor in Beijing.”
Playing as ‘Olympic Athletes from Russia’, the Russian team won gold at the last Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, with an overtime victory against Germany in the final.
The NHL also refused to allow its players to compete at those Games after a dispute with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) regarding who would cover the relevant costs.
Prior to that, NHL players had appeared at five consecutive Winter Games.