OT: Questions about the NHL withdrawal from Olympics

Submitted by crg on February 17th, 2018 at 1:17 PM

I'll try to keep this quick:

Is there any record of how the individual team owners voted regarding the league's Olympic participation? I know most anger is directed at Bettman, but he's just the front man. How did the Illitch's vote?

Also, there doesn't seem to be much outrage here in the US since 1) we typically are competitive but not dominant in hockey even with the NHL players and 2) hockey is not a major driver of professional sports here as compared to FB and BB. I'm curious if there is more widespread outrage in Canada, where they nearly always compete for gold in hockey and win very often (and have no other professional sports seriously challenging for media dominance annually). Tried to find some of this online, but I know there are enough knowledgeable board members to get a decent answer here. Thanks!

Edited for clarity.


Go Blue Eyes

February 17th, 2018 at 1:20 PM ^

A quick glance at the medal count shows Canada with five each of gold, silver and bronze.  The USA has only 9 medals overall.  Canada must be competing well in some other events...


February 17th, 2018 at 7:37 PM ^

My sister lives in Calgary and when we vist with her husband's parents, they can break down all the professional curlers. It's defnitely a conversation where I won't have much to add!

That said, I don't think can really make a full-time living on it I don't think, based on the purse sizes of $5-125K (CDN) I see over at http://www.worldcurl.com/schedule.php?et=21

This is Michigan

February 17th, 2018 at 1:48 PM ^

The answer to your question is apparently yes, Canadians are more outraged, at least from a poll conducted by the NHL.


"The NHL conducted polls in both Canada and the United States to determine if fans were in favor of the League taking a break in February to allow players to compete in the Olympics. In the United States, 73 percent said they were not in favor. In Canada, it was 53 percent against the break."

Clarence Beeks

February 17th, 2018 at 6:24 PM ^

“The Olympic Hockey Tournament (with the NHL participating) is the greatest hockey tournament in the world on the biggest and brightest stage.”

Nope, it’s not, the Stanley Cup playoffs are. And it’s not debatable that the Olympic break (and participation in the Olympics by key players) has had an impact on the Stanley Cup playoffs in Olympic years. I enjoy the Olympic tournament (even this year - gasp), but to say they are the greatest hockey tournament is an insult to the one that actually is.


February 17th, 2018 at 7:19 PM ^

He said "in the world."  There's no way as many people in this world are more interested in the Stanley Cup playoffs than Olympic hockey games.  I'd bet 75% of the people in the world couldn't tell you what sport the Stanley Cup was awarded in.  I'd bet 95% could tell you what sport the Olympic gold in hocky is about (the other 5% being Buckeye fans and Bushmen).


February 17th, 2018 at 8:30 PM ^

I happen to think that if given the choice most hockey players would rather score the game winning overtime goal in the gold medal game than game 7 of the Stanley cup finals. Maybe I’m wrong, but it just seems to me that when you add in the element of playing for your country it just means a bit more. Either way fuck Gary Bettman amirite?


February 17th, 2018 at 9:13 PM ^

They're both big, but I'm confident that if you give players the choice of one or the other, they pick the Stanley Cup every time. Perhaps it's different in Russia, where their hockey culture is intimately intertwined with Olympic tournaments, but not in North America. 

It's definitely a big deal, and I'm not at all pleased that the NHL players aren't playing, but the Stanley Cup is the prize of the sport. 

This is basically true of most sports that have a robust structure outside of the Olympics. Olympic gold is always great, but there are higher mountains to climb. In cycling, for example, any racer would choose to win a Tour de France over a gold medal in the road race, and there's little doubt that the reigning gold medalist Greg van Avermaet's greatest win is last year's prestigious monument win in Paris-Roubaix rather than his (great) win in Rio. Carmelo Anthony would trade all of his gold medals for a win in the NBA Finals. 

There are other sports where there are real achievements to be had, but where Gold is still the ultimate prize. Swimming and Track are certainly two of those, and I suspect skiing is, as well, though the World Cup circuit is significant enough that a skier can have a great and significant career without medals. There are also sports that would be weak shadows of themselves without the Olympics to drive them (figure skating, gymnastics, ski jumping) and then sports that basically wouldn't exist if they weren't Olympic mainstays (luge/skeleton/bobsled, track cycling). But hockey is not one of those. 

Clarence Beeks

February 17th, 2018 at 9:09 PM ^

There’s no chance that’s correct. I’ve played with hundreds (maybe into the low thousands) of players (all over the map of levels) and I’m comfortable virtually none of them would (if given the choice) choose the gold medal OT winner over the Cup game seven OT winner. Heck, watch any group of kids playing street hockey and they are imagining the Cup winner.

Harbaugh's Lef…

February 17th, 2018 at 9:33 PM ^

Growing up and playing, my dream was to represent my country and be an Olympian. I just missed the Miracle on Ice but must've seen clips, especially the end, a hundred times and each of them would give me goosebumps and give me tears in my eyes. As the years have grown, watching the full game more times that I can remember and seeing Miracle, that feeling never left me.

Watching the Rangers (grew up and still am a huge fan) win the Cup in '94, it was one of most thrilling moments in sports for me... but, that Gold Medal!

Charlestown Chiefs

February 17th, 2018 at 2:08 PM ^

The surveys are irrelevant.  I hate Bettman with a passion, but he made a very good point about a year ago on national TV when they officially announced the NHL wouldn't participate.  He basically said most owners were indifferent on their players going or not.  Then a couple players were injured at the Olympics and ended up tanking the playoff run for their NHL team. 

On top of that, the IOC refused to pay the costs involved with the injury.  Thus, the owners said "why are we doing this?"  They basically woke up the indifferent owners to this fact.  There was not enough reward from participating in the olympics.  It's highly money driven, but I also think they are correct.  The spotlight of NHL players in the olympics doesn't translate to gaining NHL fans unless you are a fan regardless.


February 17th, 2018 at 1:50 PM ^

Canadians (if my family is any indication) also feel outside of the Russians have an advantage sending non-NHL players. Canada has by far one of the biggest, fastest teams in the tournament and is filled mostly with guys who went over seas when NHL career wasn’t going well.

A lot tougher for a team like Slovakia or Swiss to field a dangerous squad without their 8-10 NHL players.


February 17th, 2018 at 1:56 PM ^

Isn't that much tougher for the Slovaks and Swiss? Seems like their players would be at least on par with the NHL-less Americans and Canadiens. They have many players playing in the same leagues as the North American NHL rejects. The Swiss league is one of the best in the world and the Slovakia has a KHL team and easy access for their players to play in the other European leagues. 

It seems like if you are losing 8-10 NHL guys while other countries are losing 100+ that tilts the competetive balance in your favor?

Harbaugh's Lef…

February 17th, 2018 at 2:25 PM ^

What? You guys are upset the NHL didn't want to send players to the Olympics? You guys are crazy, who wouldn't rather want to watch a 2pm laugher between the Rangers and Ottawa instead of the best players in the world represent their countries?




February 17th, 2018 at 2:39 PM ^

would like to see hockey grow as a sport, they might consider paying into the Olympics to take advantage of a public stage. The players out there now are not representative of the world’s finest, and a lot of NHL players would like to be playing for their nations. Showcase and goodwill opportunities lost here.


February 17th, 2018 at 3:15 PM ^

However those Olympics took place in Canada, the US, Russia, and Italy. The NHL is making a concerted effort to market to Asia, China in particular. Where are these games being played? Where are the next games? Seems like 2 golden opportunities to market your product at its highest level to an untapped market to me....

Der Alte

February 18th, 2018 at 10:29 AM ^

Pavel Datsyuk, a long-time Detroit Red Wings mainstay, is a member of the Russian Olympic hockey team. As is Ilya Kovalchuk, a star on the now-defunct Atlanta Thrashers NHL team. Ilya made his presence known during the game against the US, scoring a couple breakaway goals. 

It appears Olympic hockey has reverted to the same "men against boys" format that allowed the Ruskis largely to dominate the event until NHL players began to participate. Yes, I remember the 1980 "miracle." Several of the players on that US team went on to extended NHL careers, including Ken Morrow, a Michigan (Flint) native. And the Russian team of that day was considered the equivalent of most any NHL team. But it's been a a long time between "miracles" (1960 Squaw Valley, 1980 Lake Placid) and until more ex-NHLers join the US team that drought will probably continue.


February 18th, 2018 at 1:44 PM ^

I'm not sure why this is controversial. It was never in the NHLs interest to play in the olympics.  It's odd to stop your season for two weeks to let a small number of players go play in what is essentially an exhibition tournament run by the IOC. Sure, it's "for your country", but that's really more propaganda than a real incentive when you think about how corrupt the IOC is. It's also not a wildly popular tournament like the world cup, which has been going on for years. This was something that was tried in a few olympics and while it was nice, it also was bad for the NHL teams and their season. 

None of the other four sports stop their season for the olympics. If the olympics added football, would the NFL let their players go?  Hell no, and that happens in the offseason.  The MLB wouldn't stop the season so players could go. The NBA wouldn't do this either, but their olympics happens in the offseason, so they let players go. How many players would leave their team if the NHL was to say players could go, but they would miss two weeks?  Probably would lead to a big drop in big names at the olympics. 

snarling wolverine

February 18th, 2018 at 5:20 PM ^

You can't compare the NHL to the other three sports.  It attracts a far smaller television audience than they do.  I could certainly benefit from the publicity boost of Olympic hockey, and if it wants to market to the Far East, this would certainly be a golden opportunity.  But Bettman barely understands the sport he presides over, so I'm not surprised he wouldn't grasp this.