It’s official: The NHL is saying no to the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Following months of negotiation and speculation, the league announced on Monday that it would not be sending players to the Games early next year. The NHL has participated in every Winter Games since 1998 but haven’t had the smoothest of negotiations in recent years.
Prior to the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, the International Olympic Committee agreed to pay for players’ insurance, travel and housing costs, which came to around $14 million, according to Sportsnet. The IOC would not agree to cover those costs again in 2018, which was a major factor for NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.
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The league released an official statement on their decision on Monday afternoon.
In addition to the financial costs, Bettman has previously expressed that the league’s owners showed a “strong negative sentiment” toward Olympic participation. Many of those owners were concerned over “wear and tear” and players risking injury in the international tournament, as well as the compressed NHL schedule that is required when the league sends players to compete.
Regardless of that risk, the news has to come as disappointing news for a majority of hockey fans who enjoy watching the world’s best talent go head-to-head for international pride.
Now that NHL has made an official decision on the matter, it will interesting to see how some of its best players respond to the news. One of the league’s top stars, Alexander Ovechkin, has already said there’s nothing the NHL can do to stop him from playing for Team Russia, and Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis said he would not stand in the way if his players wanted to go.