- The NHL decided in April that it would not send players to the 2018 Olympics.
- NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said teams became sceptical of interrupting the NHL season when the IOC would not treat the NHL like a sponsor.
- Bettman said it’s “hard to envision” the league returning to the Olympics in the future.
NHL players are not taking part in the 2018 Olympics after the league decided it did not want to interrupt the season to have players return to their home nations to compete.
While the decision was unpopular among players, Bettman only further doubled-down on his stance while speaking at the PrimeTime Sports Management Conference in Toronto on Monday.
When asked if the NHL has any regrets about its decision regarding the Olympics, Bettman said “none at all.”
The NHL wanted to be featured as a sponsor of the Olympics, but the IOC turned them down. Without payment from the Olympics, Bettman explained how teams began re-thinking their involvement in the games.
“There were a handful of clubs that said, ‘Oh, Olympics. Great!’ There were a handful of clubs, a bigger handful, that said, ‘This is really too disruptive.’ Then the group in the middle said, ‘ehh,'” Bettman said on Monday. “Then when the IOC took the position that they didn’t want to pay the expenses, the reaction from all the teams was, ‘Wait, we need to re-evaluate this.’ If they don’t value our participation, why are we disrupting our season?'”
Bettman said he wouldn’t rule out future involvement, but said it’s “hard to envision a scenario where it makes sense.”
Bettman also said about the league’s lack of exposure in the Olympics: “This came down to exposure and being able to promote the fact that we’re there. Sidney Crosby’s goal in Vancouver [in the 2010 Olympics] — we’re not allowed to use that footage. Think about that.”
As Scott Stintson of The National Post wrote, some have been critical of the league’s decision. The NHL has sent teams to Sweden and China for games in an effort to expand and promote the league — many think the Olympics would provide the same benefit. The NHL was reportedly interested in attending the 2022 Olympics in Beijing when they were negotiating with the IOC, but Bettman made it sound like that door has closed.
“[IOC President] Thomas Bach said if you don’t go to Korea, you can’t come to Beijing. Well, OK. Thank you.”
Bettman did say the league would consider attending the Olympics if it came back to North America, saying it’s a “different equation.”
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