How many superstars does it take to get to the Olympics? Heck if I know. But there’s one more name to throw into the growing mix of opinions that is the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Connor McDavid came out as Pro-lympic over the All-Star weekend.
McDavid made explicit his views on NHL participation saying, “100 percent they should go. I couldn’t really picture an Olympics without it, to be honest,” McDavid said.
To be able to compete in the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea would be a dream come true for the young phenom according to Postmedia.
McDavid is just one of many calling for Olympic participation on behalf of the players. Alex Ovechkin has never been shy on the matter, stating repeatedly his intention to play for Russia regardless of the NHL’s stance. Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis has stood by his franchise forward, fully supporting Ovechkin’s decision.
But not all owners support sending its biggest players and money makers, halfway across the globe to compete in an event from which they do not profit.
We didn’t need McDavid to remind us about the Olympic confusion, though. Commissioner Gary Bettman very clearly, and carefully, explained exactly where they are on the issue.
Bettman made sure to interrupt the painfully slow All-Star extravaganza to tell the fans that himself and the owners have spent almost no time discussing the issue at all. In fact, there is a good chance that Bettman spent more time talking about the Olympics this weekend than the entirety of the NHL brass has in total.
Just to recap: Last year the International Olympic Comittee announced they would no longer foot the bill for travel and insurance costs; roughly $10-20 million dollars.
So, Bettman and the NHL approached the NHL Players Association with a deal.
In return for the NHL fronting the travel and insurance bills, suffering the revenue losses, and risking their most valuable assets to injury, the NHLPA was asked to extend the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, thereby waiving their opt-out clause in 2019; extending the current CBA well into the future and ensuring players the opportunity to play international hockey for another two Olympics.
This proposal was categorically shot down by the NHLPA.
The International Ice Hockey Federation, meanwhile, pledged to raise the money for the NHL. However, Bettman politely declined citing that the NHL could not accept money that would otherwise be spent on grass roots funding and growing the game.
NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr provided brief shimmer of hope saying in a statement,
I’m more optimistic now than I have ever been, at least as far as we’re concerned, that we’ll be able to reach an appropriate agreement with the IIHF to allow for the players to go.
And that was that. Until Bettman made sure to tell the masses just how little the NHL has been working to make things happen.
In essence, the issue is really quite simple.
If NHL players go, the Olympics will be better, but the League will lose some money.
If the NHL players don’t go, the Olympics will be much worse and the NHL will carry on as normal.
Repeatedly, Gary Bettman and the owners have stated that because the games are so far away they have nothing to gain and everything to lose. Given the League’s mandate to grow the game, these statements seem to directly contravene Gary Bettman and the NHL’s obligation to youth around the world.
And this is the part where we all realize that the NHL isn’t soft and cuddly. It’s not your childhood best friend or the buddy you hang out with every Saturday night. It may be the game you grew up playing, but it isn’t your game.
The NHL is business, it’s a corporation. A corporation who seemingly has little to no interest in whatever market might exist in the 2018 Pyeonchang Winter Olympics.
The NHL may believe they can only lose by going to Pyeongchang, but they also have something to lose by not participating as well.
The fans have called for their favorite players, in many cases their countrymen, to compete; repeatedly. Players have pledged allegiance to the Olympics, and superstars at that. The IIHF has even offered to empty their coffers for the cause. But Bettman and the owners have not budged an inch.
If the NHL declines to participate it will result in a serious blow to their integrity.
Bettman has made few friends of fans during his tenure as NHL commissioner, though. Through three lockouts and countless berating and belittling boo’s, the thick skinned commissioner takes his orders from a higher power; the board of governors.
As a result, Bettman is unlikely to put much stock in the thoughts and feelings of the NHL’s true money makers; its fans.
As it stands, there’s not much too much to be optimistic about with regards to seeing our favorite players compete for their countries next winter.
For what it’s worth, though, the NHL has not set a timeline for their decision. So anything is possible.