If you had dreams of NHL players going to the 2018 Olympic Games in PyeongChang, Gary Bettman likely just tinkled in your Corn Flakes.
The NHL’s Commissioner spoke at the Sport Business Summit in New York today and told reporters that “people should assume we are not going (to the Olympics).”
The news sent shockwaves through social media as many Canadian hockey fans were hoping for a three-peat on the men’s side, a goal that seems unlikely to happen if you take Bettman at his word.
According to Bettman, the NHL’s commissioner since February of 1993, the league last met with the IOC to discuss an Olympic future back in February but, apparently, no progress was made and no future meetings are scheduled. According to ol’ Gary:
“There are no negotiations ongoing. We were open to having discussions on a variety of things that might mitigate the damage to our season but that had no resonance.”
The NHL’s beef seems to stem with shutting the league down for two weeks so close to the playoffs, a concern that is amplified by the potential for injuries to some of the league’s best players. From a league perspective, having guys like John Tavares go down for the remainder of the season as a result of an Olympic injury is a problem but, to play devil’s advocate, we’ve also seen guys go down from eating pancakes. Injuries happen and unless we wrap the world in bubble wrap (let’s get some costing on this idea) then there’s not much we can do about them – Olympics or not.
What else did Bettman say?
“The point is I was trying to emphasize the fact that this is terribly disruptive to our business and there seems to be no offsetting way to mitigate that disruption”
Basically what that tells me is that the bigger issue is the fact that the NHL misses out on the cash generated by their athletes that play in the games. Are they worried about players getting hurt? Totally. Are they way more worried about missing out on some mad scratch? Hell yeah, they are.
It was widely reported that the NHL is seeking a ‘Top Sponsor’ status that would allow the league to market (read: cash in on) the games themselves. When you combine missing out on that kind of cake alongside paying for the insurance and transportation for the players to attend the event then you’ve got a recipe for an unhappy ownership group, a group represented by Bettman.
“When the IOC comes to us and says, by the way, we know it will cost $15 to $20 million to send your players between insurance, charter costs and accommodations for the players. Well… we’re not going to pay for that. If they don’t value our participation (then) why are we going?”
For hockey fans everywhere, this news came down like a heel kick to the nuts. Having NHLers participate at the Olympics created some of the most memorable and uniting hockey moments that any of us have ever experienced. If the NHL has their way, those memories could be all that we have to hang on to. Unless, of course, you’re going to be into watching an Olympic version of the Spengler Cup.