When the NHL announced officially that it was backing out of the 2018 games, players were none too happy. Especially considering the timing, which was set right before the playoffs were to begin. And instead of talking about their team’s chances for hoisting the Stanley Cup, many were fielding questions regarding their personal feelings for not being able to represent their country in the hopes of winning a gold medal.
Or, if you happened to be in Alex Ovechkin’s skates, about whether or not you were going to make good on the promise you made to leave your team for the 2 1/2 weeks the tournament was going on.
A promise he expectedly intends to keep.
But for 2018, they’re out.
They’ll be back by 2022, or at least trying to because the NHL has already identified the Chinese market as an area where they’d like to grow, even going so far as to announce preseason games being held there next season. The trying to part comes in the form that the IOC reportedly said that if the NHL didn’t participate in 2018, they wouldn’t be allowed in 2022.
Which also means that if the IOC were to hold their ground, the NHL could be out of two opportunities to showcase their elite athletes on the world’s largest stage.
They’re already out two KHL prospects as Maxim Shalunov and Anton Burdasov, who were both expected to jump across the Pacific Ocean, cut off contract talks with NHL clubs when the announcement was made in the hopes of being selected for the national team when the games came around.
How much this will extend to other prospects remains to be seen.
Considering that minor league players may be made available, there’s a good chance that a third round pick who’s unlikely to make the club initially may end up being able to play in the Olympics when they roll around, but would a player like Connor McDavid or Auston Matthews have decided to avoid playing in the NHL for another season just to ensure that they could have gotten a chance at a Gold Medal on the biggest stage?
Both players in their first full seasons helped their teams make the playoffs this year after having not been a part of it in the last couple, something which was enough to rejuvenate their Canadian fan bases for teams that had been on the bottom end of the league for longer than most would care to admit.
Or what about Patrik Laine? Would he have decided to stay in Finland as opposed to coming to the Jets and challenging for the Calder Trophy, potentially becoming a franchise piece for them to build around while they’re still establishing their footing in Winnipeg.
If so, 2018, outside of the addition of a team in Vegas could look very similar to 2017…
Main Photo Credit: s.yume [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons