The Winter Olympics are less than a year away and time is ticking on the NHL to make a decision — one way or another.
International Ice Hockey Federation President Rene Fasel tells The Associated Press he needs to know by the end of April whether NHL players will be cleared to play in the South Korea Olympics next year.
NHL team owners have made it clear they don’t want to stop their season again for the Winter Games and put their stars at risk of injury. The reluctance has come up before and yet the NHL has participated in the Olympics since 1998. This time, however, there seems to be an impasse.
For those hoping NHL players will compete in South Korea next year, the situation right now appears bleak, given the recent comments of commissioner Gary Bettman, who told Reuters that “…people should assume we are not going.”
Bettman has also argued the compressed schedule that accompanies the league’s participation in the Olympics is bad for the NHL.
Meanwhile, a number of players — Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews, Jakub Voracek and rising star Connor McDavid among them — have publicly lobbied for the opportunity to once again compete in the Olympics, adding that having the world’s best players there is a benefit to growing the game.
(In McDavid’s case, he has never played in the Olympics, but given his stature as arguably the league’s best player right now in only his second season, he’d be a shoe-in to make Team Canada if healthy.)
Voracek recently sounded off the matter, essentially calling the league’s position, “Absolutely ridiculous.”