Quick, try to think back to a time when the NHL owners weren’t butting heads with another organization over something fans desperately wanted but wasn’t financially rewarding from the owners perspective.
Just kidding. Obviously you can’t conceptualize never. But as frustrating as the Gary Bettman and ownership are when it comes to things like, every negotiation with the NHLPA leading to a lockout, this time they kind of have a point.
The owners don’t want to go to the Olympics without having some conditions met: insurance for players and travel costs being covered chief among them. Considering they’re pausing their league for three weeks and risking losing stars like John Tavares for the rest of the season, they shouldn’t have smile and foot the bill as well.
This is something the players desperately want, with some stars going as far to say they’ll go whether they’re allowed to or not. But when you look at how the Bettman and the NHL are still negotiating, this is clearly something they want too. If not, Bettman would’ve already “locked out” the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
Speaking of the IOC, this is definitely something they should want. The men’s ice hockey is the biggest draw in the Winter Olympics, at least for North American audiences. Going back to a largely amateur tournament would risk losing a ton of interest.
For all the posturing on both sides, there is no hard deadline on when an agreement needs to be reached. The International Hockey Federation (IIHF) has said they’d like a decision by the end of April, so teams can prepare a back-up roster, but that’s hardly a firm date. For the 2014 Olympics, the NHL and IOC didn’t reach an agreement until June of 2013.
So buckle up for at least a few more weeks of this talk. Ultimately, the NHL wants to be at the 2022 games in China to market their game and players, and they’ll likely make some concessions in order to make that happen. As for the odds of us getting to see the game’s biggest stars in South Korea next year, we take a stab at the odds, as well as how that tournament may shake out.
NHL Olympic Odds
Odds NHL Players play in Pyeongchang Olympics in 2018: 2/3
Odds NHL Players play in Beijing Olympics in 2022: 4/7
Odds to win men’s hockey gold in 2018 (if NHL Players go):
- Canada: 5/3
- Russia: 4/1
- Sweden: 11/2
- Finland: 8/1
- USA: 9/1
- Czech Republic: 25/1
- Switzerland: 100/1
- South Korea: 2000/1
Odds to win men’s hockey gold in 2018 (if NHL Players don’t go):
- Russia: 3/1
- Sweden: 4/1
- Canada: 6/1
- USA: 6/1
- Finland: 7/1
- Germany: 14/1
- Denmark: 20/1
- South Korea: 1000/1
It is kind of fun to imagine how the tournament would shake out if the best names weren’t there. Not only would every game be a fun round of “oh ya, I remember Max Talbot!” but every non-Canada nation would have better shot at winning. Even the host nation and their group of Canadian ringers would see a slight increase.
Photo Credit: s.yume [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons