New York, April 5: The National Hockey League has officially announced that it will not participate in the upcoming Pyeongchang Winter Olympics which will be organised at South Korea in 2018. However, it is the first time since 1994 that NHL will not participate in winter Olympics.
The IOC has also confirmed to CBC Sports Monday that the NHL won't be sending its players to Pyeongchang, because of negotiations between the league, the NHL Players' Association and the International Olympic Committee have stalled in recent months.
In a statement, the NHL said that it was open to hearing from the parties involved but that "no meaningful dialogue has materialized." The league says it will now proceed with finalizing the schedule for next season. "At the end of the day Gary Bettman is probably going to be a villain to many people on this particular subject, but the fact of the matter is Gary works for 31 team owners now with Las Vegas joining the NHL next season," said CBC Sports contributor Mike Brophy. "And the owners don't want a three-week break in their schedule, so as disappointing as this is, it's not surprising to me on any level."
Unhappy about having to shut down for almost three weeks in the middle of their regular season, the NHL had been seeking major concessions from the IOC for taking part in the South Korea games.
Notably, the NHL had participated in every Winter Olympics since the 1998 Nagano Winter Games. The decision will impact almost every major hockey-playing nation with the Sweden, Finland, Russia, United States and Canadian teams almost entirely made up of NHL players.
Meanwhile, PyeongChang Winter Olympic organizers remained hopeful that NHL players will come to South Korea next year, despite the league's announcement that it will not send its players. Interestingly, the NHL's absence will be a blow to the Olympics as the hockey competition was one of the Winter Games premier events and pulled in top ratings, particularly in North America.