Notes on the NHL and the 2018 Olympics

If you were still holding out hope that the NHL would allow its players to play in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, it’s probably time to let go.

Back in April, a report came out that said the NHL wouldn’t be participating in the 2018 Olympics largely because owners weren’t interested in having the season disrupted for a few weeks as we saw in 2006, 2010, and 2014. But because of backlash from players, fans, and the obvious possibility for growing the sport in a massive market like Asia, many still hung on to a glimmer of hope that the league would change its mind.

Hope was always pretty bleak after that statement in April was released, but it’s likely been all but squashed at this point.

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First, over the weekend, Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly confirmed that players with NHL contracts, including those in the AHL and ECHL, would not be allowed to participate in the Olympics. So if you aren’t a part of the NHL registry, you can play for your country.

As lame as it sounds, that makes sense if the NHL is going through with this whole thing. I mean, it’s pretty difficult to tell a middling player on the big club he can’t live his Olympic dream only to have a teammate who happened to be put through waivers in January go play in Pyeongchang.

Regardless, the fact that the league is hammering down rules as specific as this one would insinuate that they aren’t backing out of this decision now.

Second, Ottawa Senators owners Eugene Melnyk appeared on a Toronto Radio Show on Monday to discuss the Olympics, and offered some bleak realizations.

“The schedule is set. The dates are set. All of our fan appreciation days are set,” Melnyk said, according to Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Citizen.”You asked me if there’s any way of fixing this or doing something with this? You can’t for this coming season. Absolutely not.

“It’s August. We start training camp in a month. People start coming in and then we start full play in early-October. It’s actually technically impossible to do. Think of the television that’s all set. There’s a lot of things that have been set in motion that are pretty much irreversible.”

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This is obviously a damn shame because it’s going to massively lower the quality of Olympic hockey we’re going to get to watch come February. On an Oilers fan note, we’re also going to be robbed of likely our best chance to watch an elite Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid, the best two players of this generation, play together.

So get ready for the heavily-televised version of Spengler Cup. Pre-order your Gilbert Brule and Rob Klinkhammer jerseys. This should be interesting.

  • OilCan2

    I might get the Klinkhammer jersey except that the name is probably going to take up two lines.

    Did anyone notice how the IOC walked away from ‘Amateur Status’ as soon as they started filling their pockets on the toil of Pro Athletes?

    • Randaman

      Easy to say when its not your money on the line. The IOC has been raking in the cash at the expense of the owners have finally had enough. Shame on the IOC!!!

      • AJ88

        I am not sure why so many are crying about 2 weeks of Olympic hockey where you may play the Russians or the Americans once each. I can understand the NHL’s thinking on the Olympics from a business standpoint, the Cup should be ON’s only objective.

    • ricardo2000

      I see the boot-licking corporate yahoos are out in force.
      Let’s get something clear: this is not about the IOC, this is about the NHL screwing the players as a negotiating tactic for the next collective bargaining agreement. The owners know the players want that gold medal, so they want something in return. Never mind that the owners contribute NOTHING BUT MONEY to the game.
      While the players will give up everything, including the chance to play in the NHL.
      But then the players are still loyal to their countries; the owners are only loyal to money.

  • Sparky Blue

    So what would the weasel and his baldie buddy do if a group including McDavid, Sid, Eichel and fill in whatever 60 other names all called in sick and wound up in Korea next February?

  • BobbyCanuck

    An excellent opportunity for the KHL to establish an international brand, which will surpass the NHL brand after these Olympics and the next, these countries will not forget this slight by the NHL.

    Wonder if KHL is letting their pro’s go?

    Let me tell you a little story about the Olympics and endorsements. About 40 yrs ago, Kodak (remember them? They used to make cameras and film) decided not to continue with sponsorship, Fuji Film took over the spot, guess which one is out of business today?

    In 20 yrs Asian kids will dream of hoisting the Continental Cup over there heads, Stanley? Wass dat?

  • Shame on both sides. Typical manner in which Bettman negotiates though… i.e. he doesn’t. He just walks away and if the other side comes out begging, then he might talk with them. And I don’t buy the “things are already in motion” from Melnyk. Did everyone know the schedule in the lockout years only until a few weeks before? No. TV adjusts schedules all the time. Until the IOC comes back to the NHL and says, “Look, you’ll get money too”, then it won’t ever happen again. This isn’t about “potential injuries” because then what was having the World Cup of Hockey before the season started last year all about? Money money money. Period.

    • Anton CP

      The next winter Olympics will be in Beijing, China. That will be the big event neither IOC nor NHL want to miss. I don’t think that either sides have treated Pyeongchang Olympics with any sort of respect, hockey is not that popular of winter event in Asia other than Japan and NHL won’t get much of exposure to the rest of the world due to time-zone difference.

    • AJ88

      Tell us with all business savvy how you would go about beating “out the NFL in terms of yearly revenue”. Comparing the NHL to the NFL in terms of revenue is a lost cause. What does your comment have to do with the Olympics anyways? I am interested in your assessment.

      • FISTO Siltanen

        Here you go:
        The NHL just celebrated a World Cup of Hockey that, at best, underwhelmed in public interest. I think many were put off by the statements that if this tournament was successful it would replace the Olympic participation. I for one read their comments like that. TV ratings disappointed. General interest disappointed. Revenues disappointed.

        The NHL has one – ONE – major TV provider in the States for national coverage. They had interest from multiple networks when their contract was up and chose one – ONE – network. What price did this network pay for such a premium to be the exclusive partner in TV rights? The NFL, NBA and MLB all have multiple carriers. Surely the NHL was paid a kings ransom.

        $200M a season.

        And they committed to ten years of it.

        Low end NBA and MLB teams make $50-80M a season. The NHL basically gave their rights away to an Olympics broadcaster…

        …and then left them hanging on the eve of the Olympics. Anyone ask NBC how happy they are about this turnabout?

        What about CBC/Sportsnet?

        So the NHL has left its biggest US broadcast partner out in the cold and have an underwhelming world tournament to call on in place of the Olympics…except they recently announced they won’t schedule another one in 4 years since they’ll probably have a lockout. Look it up.

        They have had WCoH they haven’t built momentum from. They didn’t follow up Nagano/set up Salt Lake City with one. They did follow up SLC with the Lockout World Cup…so there is always that.

        The NHL isn’t good partners with the NHLPA.

        They aren’t good partners with the IOC.

        They aren’t good partners with their broadcast partners.

        Fair comment on the NFL/NHL comparison – I was exaggerating more than anything.

        The NHL is a small league run by small individuals and I’m still pissed about missing the Olympics.

        WWIII or not. It’s the principle.

        • Anton CP

          Bettman is possibly the worst commissioner at negotiating and it is amazing for such poor practices that he still have the job. His negotiating style is never direct nor confronting, he is negotiating with tactics of spites and back door politics. He focus on small details instead of on big picture. He likes to win multiple meaningless victories instead of a grand success.

          Compare him to say, David Stern. Stern was possibly the most sleaziest commissioner ever but he knew how to get things done. He was never shy about “fixing” and he may have turned NBA into WWE but he was selling NBA successfully all over the world. Silver may not like what he has inherited from Stern but that TV deal he got from couple years ago (24 billion for 10 years) will surely help him sleep well.

          Hockey is much harder to sell internationally compare to basketball which means he needs to sell NHL much harder than NBA. However his action just contradicts the logic, he is pretty much a Goodell or Stern wanna be but without the marketing skills.

  • 2centz

    This is simply Gary banking on 8yrs of no Olympic hockey,to grow and generate interest in his super cheesy World Cup. It’s always about dollars and cents with The Count.

  • Heschultzhescores

    Nobody “OWNS” anybody. You may pay them to play for your team, but they are still free to give up some salary to go. I’m sure many players would go and give up 2 weeks pay. The players are what people watch, nobody gives a rat’s rectum about Bettman…and that’s the truth. Would anyone pay a penny to watch Bettman do anything other than quit?

      • Anton CP

        I don’t think that all owners share the same view and it is especially tricky to deal with European players. The most obvious example, Ovi, has always committed to representing Russia and it comes down to how much he desired for the Olympic success because he can always “retire” and then play for KHL until the end of his career. If Ovi decided to do such a thing, it will be the lost to NHL and Caps. NHL will be losing on a lot of international talents in the future and it will help KHL eventually overtaking international hockey market. Those who don’t believe that should get your KHL updates, KHL has a Chinese team started from last year and they are already spread over 7 nations with plans to include another 7 nations (12 teams). So, good job Bettman.

  • Clubhouse

    I for one am glad they are not going, screw the IOC bunch of crooks.

    How can any person not see the IOC only cares about money and the IOC. How many countries, provinces, states, cities have they helped to completely bankrupt themselves in the last 40 years. But hey everyone its ok that countries like South Korea will be in debt for probably 2-3 generations to hold the games. Why is it that the IOC has zero responsibility and chooses places that cannot afford to hold them? Why is it that Bettman and owners are getting totally screwed for asking for reasonable financial stability (ie. cover NHL players insurance to come, and give them a sponsorship credit let them show the highlights on nhl.com) and IOC comes out looking like there hero’s. Fact of the matter is IOC are way worse than Bettman and have been doing the same crap for decades but we just let it happen. I’m not a huge Bettman fan but in this I support him and all his tactics the IOC is completely ridiculous.

  • Jack

    I think it is was absolutely insane the IOC agreed to the Olympics in South Korea with the North so volatile. Now with missile capabilities that can reach Guam the North is even more dangerous.

  • ricardo2000

    This so-called Korean Crisis is Trump’s way of saying: ‘Don’t look at me. Look at the pretty girl getting sawn in half.’
    It is just a bit of political magic designed to get the ignorant bleating.


    Yes, I cannot even fathom why Korea was awared the games in the first place. I sure in the heck wouldn’t even consider participating in the games there and the NHL is right just on safety reasons. Until Trump and KJ are gone there is no chance of the Olympics once again. We could send the flames though.

  • Anton CP

    No one wants to host Olympics, especially winter Olympics. It is a huge money sink and winter facilities have very low re-use rate. 2022 ended up in Beijing because once Oslo dropped from ballot that it was either Kazakhstan or China. Besides, this is the Olympics that NHL can skip and still not getting negative press. South Korea has very low marketing opportunity considering that has relatively small winter culture and it is also not an important base for Asian market. Don’t forget the time zone differences that most of the game if aired live that will be happening in very early morning. For Bettman that this game is a good way to gain advantage on the next CBA negotiation.