NHL players lash out at league for deciding against Olympic participation

It didn’t take long for the NHL Players Association to respond to the league’s decision against 2018 Olympic participation, and that response was as strong as it was swift.

After the NHL officially announced Monday that it would not be sending players to compete in the Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, the NHLPA released an official statement hours later.

That release relayed that players were “extraordinarily disappointed” by the league’s decision, one which they believe “impedes the growth of our great game.”

You can read the statement in full below.

“The players are extraordinarily disappointed and adamantly disagree with the NHL’s shortsighted decision to not continue our participation in the Olympics.

Any sort of inconvenience the Olympics may cause to next season’s schedule is a small price to pay compared to the opportunity to showcase our game and our greatest players on this enormous international stage.

A unique opportunity lies ahead with the 2018 and 2022 Olympics in Asia. The NHL may believe it is penalizing the IOC or the players, or both, for not giving the owners some meaningful concessions in order to induce them to agree to go to PyeongChang. Instead this impedes the growth of our great game by walking away from an opportunity to reach sports fans worldwide.

Moreover, it is doing so after the financial issues relating to insurance and transportation have been resolved with the IOC and IIHF. The League’s efforts to blame others for its decision is as unfortunate as the decision itself. NHL players are patriotic and they do not take this lightly. A decent respect for the opinions of the players matters. This is the NHL’s decision, and its alone. It is very unfortunate for the game, the players and millions of loyal hockey fans.”

In addition to the official statement from the NHLPA, several players took to Twitter to express their disappointment and concern over the Olympic ruling.

The NHL’s owners seem most worried about having to cease operations to fit an Olympic break into the league schedule, though they’ve also cited player “wear & tear” as a concern.

In addition, commissioner Gary Bettman wanted the International Olympic Committee to cover the costs of players’ insurance, travel and accommodations. According to the NHLPA’s statement, those financial details were worked out between the IOC and the International Ice Hockey Federation.

NHL players have participated in every Winter Games since 1998 and many find great pride in the opportunity to represent their home nation on the world’s stage, so it’s no surprise that this decision isn’t being received well by the NHLPA. Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin has already said he’s going to play for Team Russia regardless, and Caps owner Ted Leonsis said he’s okay with it, so it will be interesting to see how many other players try to follow suit.