The NHL will not participate in the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The games will take place from February 9 to 25, 2018, and the NHL will not see a break in the 2017-18 schedule. This officially ends a run of five consecutive Winter Olympics that have featured NHL players from across the league and world. The main reason for the NHL not participating in the Olympics is that the teams do not want to interrupt the 2017-18 season. They are unwilling to accommodate Olympic participation at this time, and the NHL Board of Governors stands by this decision.
The NHL also conducted polls across North America to see if fans were in favor of the League taking a break in February. According to the polls, 73 percent of NHL fans said they were not in favor. A separate poll in Canada showed that 53 percent of fans supported NHL’s decision not to play in the Olympics next year. The International Olympic Committee has also stated that NHL’s participation in the Winter Olympics in Beijing in 2022 may also not happen. They were considering NHL’s involvement in South Korea 2018 as a prerequisite for their participation in 2022. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman stated that the 17-day break may result in the following:
The NHL has participated in every Winter Olympics since 1998. This includes a total of 706 players that have participated to date, an average of 141 players per season. To fill the gap left behind by the NHL, the International Olympic Committee will look to players from minor league hockey federations across the globe. These players, of course, must be active in their minor or junior league hockey clubs within their countries. The same also goes for the USA, which will also look at possible NCAA involvement in the tournament.
While the NHL’s decision to not participate in the next Winter Olympics has upset the IOC and countless ice hockey fans, the League has considered the matter closed. All we can do is wait and see if the NHL reverses its decision in the weeks and months ahead.