The NHL has finally announced what they've been trending to for a while: the league's not stopping for the 2018 Olympics. From the mothership at SB Nation:
The NHL announced on Monday afternoon that it will not be sending players to the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, saying that “no meaningful dialogue has materialized” in negotiations with the International Olympic Committee, the NHL Players’ Association, and the International Ice Hockey Federation.
The NHL first sent its players to the Games in 1998, and 2018 will be the first Olympic Games since 1994 in which NHL players will not participate. Team owners have long been opposed to interrupting the NHL season to send players to the Winter Olympics, but in previous years, including for the 2014 Sochi Games, the IOC offered to pay insurance and travel costs for NHL players as an appeasement for the league interrupting its season.
That offer was not on the table this year, and it’s the main sticking point from the league’s perspective.
NHL players, meanwhile, won’t be happy with this decision. Several players are on the record saying that they will play for their countries regardless of the league’s stance, most notably Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals. Caps owner Ted Leonsis has said that he would allow Ovechkin to go play for Team Russia, creating an awkward situation for other big-name players and their team owners. Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk has said he would not support star defenseman Erik Karlsson should the Swede want to play for his country.
It remains to be seen how this will affect the Penguins. Ownership doesn't often speak and has deflected questions about what their stance would be. That's reasonable enough, especially since nothing was official until now.
Similarly Sidney Crosby has been pretty diplomatic about it as well. Crosby said in an interview before this season:
"I haven't thought that far ahead and I don't know what the situation is going to be at that point, but I'm definitely not going to declare that right now," Crosby said. "Kind of wait and see what happens. But if [Ovechkin] feels that strongly about it I don't have a problem with that. If he wants to represent his country and be there that's his choice."
It's also unknown what Evgeni Malkin thinks, however the Russian has been very prideful about playing for his beloved Russia and with limited opportunities in his playing career to do so, it's probably not going too far out on a limb to think he will want to play in the 2018 Olympics. Especially if he sees his buddy Ovechkin planning on it.
Other potential Olympians could be 2016 World Cup of Hockey players in Olli Maatta, Patric Hornqvist and Carl Hagelin. Phil Kessel could be in the group too, if USA Hockey has learned any lessons about how to select the best players available.
Since the NHL season won't be stopping, seemingly any players leaving could hurt the team. All teams could be about on the same playing field if some-to-all of the best players are gone. It also doesn't sound great for NHL ticket holders to have to pay top dollar for games where they won't be able to see some of their favorite players (and the top stars on the other team as well).
The drama isn't over but this is a huge step now that the NHL has made their move. The owners haven't liked having their players play in a tournament that they don't profit on for a long time. It's a main reason why they re-established their World Cup of Hockey.
Now we'll see how the individual teams and players want to handle this, several of the top players have indicated they still want to play. It remains to be seen how Crosby and Malkin (and Lemieux and Burkle) will feel about today's developments but now they will have to absorb and react to this news.