NHL: The Olympic Debate

(Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Should the NHL go to the Olympics in 2018?

This is a question that the NHL, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) have been asking themselves for a while now.

The NHL and it’s owners believe that the festivities pose too much of a disruption to the NHL season, and does not add much value at all to the league. Bettman referred to the disruption the Olympic break causes, saying to Ron Maclean during the All-Star Game, “… I’m not sure there’s a whole lot of sentiment on the part of the clubs to go through the disruption of taking off almost three weeks during the season”. Bettman talked lengthily about the lack of business and hockey incentive for the NHL to participate. On the other hand, many players have gone on the record about their intent to participate regardless of the NHL’s decision; players as prominent as Alexander Ovechkin.

The IOC has said they will not cover the costs for the NHL during the break, which had previously been the case. Bettman will not even consider participating in the Olympics without this concession. As well, there are the health concerns. John Tavares was having a career season in 2014 before suffering a season-ending injury during the Games. In addition to the possibility of injury, the condensed NHL schedule that results can also be harmful to the health of the players, according to Bettman, who said, “…the compression to the regular season schedule is something that concerns us”.

Bettman also brought up a valid point during his interview with Maclean, saying that the NHL had a responsibility to produce the best NHL hockey product they can. That means that they don’t have a responsibility to make the Olympics an entertaining hockey tournament. If it hurts the NHL, either on the business side or the hockey side, then there is absolutely no reason for them to go. I usually hate Gary Bettman, as most hockey enthusiasts do, but he is right as can be on this one.

Personally, I enjoy the World Juniors more than Olympic hockey. The World Juniors is an unorganized field of chaos where anything can happen, with players zipping up and down the ice at ferocious speeds. The Olympics, with NHL players, is like watching the Spurs on offence – a methodical, hypnotizing feat of skill and smarts, but nowhere near as entertaining as the quick Warriors attack. I’m not saying that having amateur players would be better than having NHL guys, but it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.

Another reason the NHL, in my opinion, should not go to the Olympics is the location of it. The NHL’s fanbase is widely North American, and the time difference would harm the ratings. The games would be on in the middle of the night, forcing viewers to disrupt their sleep schedule and ensuing days just to watch the same guys playing with different jerseys.

The NHL has all the leverage in this situation, and the IOC seriously messed up when they withdrew their offer to cover costs, and disrespected the value that NHL players bring to the Games.

Bettman can play the long-game, and stand by his demands to have the costs covered. In the worst case, amateur players provide similar entertainment and ratings, and Bettman doesn’t have to disrupt his season in the future. In the best case, the ratings and quality suffer, and the IOC comes back to him with their tails between their legs.

Do you agree that the NHL should not send its players to the Olympics? Think that they should? Let us know in the comment section, and don’t forget to Like and Follow on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook!

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