April 04, 2017

Olympic Decision Necessary For World Cup Of Hockey

The National Hockey League announced on Monday that they will not be sending their players to the 2018 Olympics in Korea.

Part of me definitely understands why. Their relationship with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) was way too one-sided. The NHL telling the crooked IOC to bugger off is applauded in this corner. And I suspect the NHL's relationship with Rene Fasal and the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) is frosty at best too. There is definitely an imbalance here, as these international bodies want the NHL's top talent without sharing the immense proceeds.

Yes, we can talk about the NHL growing the game and being narrow minded about profiting indirectly and in the long term. From what I understand the NHL isn't looking for a cut of the lucrative broadcast deals or gate receipts. But not being allowed to use an image of Sidney Crosby scoring the Golden Goal on their website is ridiculous. And now the IOC expects the league to pay millions for insurance and travel costs to let their talent play for free?

Make no mistake, the NHL likes international hockey. The NHL tried resuscitating the World Cup of Hockey this season. There is potential for it to become the premier international hockey tournament given time and proper management, but it will be a long time before it rivals the Olympics if ever. Unfortunately for today's fans and Connor McDavid's generation of players, that means the NHL must withdraw from the Olympics. The World Cup can never compete with the Olympics' grand stage, especially if the NHL keeps sending players there. And this means no to Beijing, too.

The NHL badly needs the World Cup of Hockey to work. Their track record with the tournament is not good, but pulling their talent out of the Olympics is a necessary step for this goal.

Of course this is just a look at one of many story lines to be followed. The NHL's relationship with it's players and the NHLPA is first and foremost. What happens if players leave anyway? And is all this the beginnings of an inevitable labour stoppage? Labour peace should be another necessary step for the NHL as it tries establishing the World Cup of Hockey.

The NHL is too short-sighted to make the World Cup of Hockey ever really work. And the IOC/IIHF are too greedy to make the Olympics work for all. Ultimately all hockey fans suffer. Hopefully the disrupted schedule can at least be balanced out making for a more consistent NHL product during the season.


The Man said...

You are wrong, the IOC did agree to pay all the costs, just as they did before. It's true that they negotiated on it, but in they end they agreed. Only after they agreed NHL decided to reject the participation. They were obviously looking for an excuse and once they were not given the opportunity they had to reject it without a valid reason.

This will backfire. World Cup was done pretty much with understanding that NHL would agree to Olympic participation. There will be no World Cup 2020, IIHF can easily forbid use of team names and logos and they can flat out forbid national teams from playing there.

Joe Pelletier said...

The IOC never put the expenses on the table. The IIHF, with cooperation from member organizations, stepped up and offered the money. This is not a good solution as that money is actually earmarked for development programs all over the world.

The IIHF can't forbid use of team names. They certainly do not own the name Canada or Team Canada. The NHL created all their own logos for the World Cup. And beyond that, the member organizations such as Hockey Canada own their own logos.

I actually suspect the IIHF is more in the NHL's corner than it is in the IOC's corner.

The Man said...

This is the statement from last week:
"The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) has agreed to pay NHL players' travel and insurance costs to try to lure them to the 2018 Winter Olympics but team owners have set more commercial demands, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said on Wednesday."

So it was IIHF in this case that agreed to pay, just like they do with World Championships. It is not a coincidence that NHL made this statement right after their demand was accepted, don't you think? You also don't see NHL claiming anywhere that they costs wouldn't have been covered, because it would have been a lie. They claim other reasons.

NHL players are also not obliged to participate in WCoH. We've had Bourque and Roy refusals and nothing happened to them. Player contracts obligate them to play in:
- NHL games (regular season and playoffs)
- AS games
- International Hockey Games (that's exhibition games played outside territory of Canada/USA)
- Exhibition Games (preseason club games played in Canada/USA)

That's what the players obligations are, per CBA. On top of that the teams are required to allow players to play in the IIHF World Championship if the players so desire. Teams don't have the right to prevent them from playing, if the season is over.

The players agreed to play in the World Cup, because an ADDITIONAL agreement was signed with NHLPA. Without that agreement there would have been no World Cup. That's the same NHLPA that is not very unhappy with the NHL decision. There are so many sides that can block World Cup 2020 and NHL has pissed off all of them: NHLPA, IIHF, and the players themselves could refuse. Not to mention each national team.