Why the NHL’s participation in the 2008 Olympics remains up in the air
Nick Fleming – STAFF WRITER
The greatest moment in sports that I have ever experienced was the overtime game winning goal scored by Sidney Crosby against the United States in the gold medal game at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. The pure elation of having beat the United States in our national sport on home ice is something I may never again experience in a lifetime of watching sports. However, despite the incredible popularity among hockey fans and players alike about Olympic hockey, the NHL’s future participation is up in the air.
The owners of the now 31 NHL teams have little desire to see the season shut down for approximately two weeks, which amounts to a tremendous amount of money lost. Furthermore, the potential of injury to star players is prominently on the minds of owners throughout the league and presents yet another undesirable situation.
And yet, the Olympics are an event that elite players greatly enjoy and look forward to as they present some players with one of the few opportunities where they are able to represent their country on the international stage.
The owners and commissioner of the NHL are well aware of the players’ desire to attend and have tried to take advantage of that situation by using Olympic participation to get an extension of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the NHL Players Association (NHLPA) and the league. But as much as that sounds like it presents an easy solution to Olympic participation, extension of the CBA is really not in the interest of the players due to the section dealing with escrow, which is basically where the players have to pay the owners if the NHL doesn’t make enough money in a season. Thus the deal was quickly rejected by the players who in essence said that they wouldn’t jump into an extended CBA just to go to the Olympics.
Fortunately, for fans of NHL participation in Olympic hockey not all hope is lost. The NHL is working on two schedules for the 2017/2018 season – one that doesn’t include the Olympics, and one that does, meaning the Olympics are still in play. Also the head of the NHLPA, Donald Fehr, has said that he is optimistic that the NHL will participate in the 2018 Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea.
So for now we’ll just have to wait and hope that the decision will be made to participate, and whether or not that is going to happen should be announced in the next couple of months.