by Malec Fahmy ’20 and Brynn Smith ’19
The National Hockey League (NHL) announced, in April 3, that none of its players will be permitted to participate in the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. Some of the best hockey players in the world, like Edmonton Oilers’ Connor Mcdavid and New York Rangers’ Henrik Lundvqist, will not be permitted to play in the Games, and both have expressed their disappointment over this decision.
“Disappointing news, @ NHL won’t be part of the Olympics 2018. A huge opportunity to market the game at the biggest stage wasted,” tweeted Lundvqist, the Rangers’ star goaltender. “But most of all, disappointing for all the players that can’t be part of the most special adventure in sports.”
Even though the league has been letting its players go to the Olympics since 1998, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has had an obvious change of heart, as he now believes the negatives outweigh the positives when talking about the Olympics. “It’s hard to envision scenario where [returning to the Olympics] makes sense,” said Bettman. The NHL had many reasons for pulling its players out of the international competition, the most prominent being how much it would disrupt the 2017-2018 season.
The thing that Bettman needs to understand are opinions from the fans’ perspective. They want to see their favorite players represent their country on the biggest stage in the world. During the two weeks of the games, quite frankly, no one cares about the NHL season. Being able to watch the best players in the league and the young, up and coming phenoms is an incredible experience that will now be missed as a result of league’s decision.
The league reasons that shutting down its season mid February–the time of year it isn’t competing with football or baseball–is not worth it anymore. Not only is there a stoppage in regular season games and therefore a loss of revenue, but players sustain season ending injuries during the competition.
The problem with those arguments is that by allowing their players to compete at Pyeongchang would expand the fan base of the game. The Olympics provide a platform in other countries that the NHL just can’t reach. And only four players suffered season-ending injuries at the Sochi Olympics in 2014. In any given two-week period of the NHL regular season, there is at least that. Many hockey fans believe that barring NHL players from the Olympics is the wrong move.
Not only do fans miss their favorite players competing on an international stage, but the game remains stagnant. As of now, the hockey community is small. By letting NHL players participate in the Olympic games, the game grows.