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.