Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews is among those disappointed with the NHL’s decision to skip the 2018 Olympics
The NHL ruffled some feathers Monday when it announced that Chicago Blackhawks and other NHL players will not be participating in the 2018 Olympics Games in Korea. This will be the first Winter Olympics since 1998 where the NHL will not send its players to play.
Here is the NHL’s full statement:
The decision ends months of speculation on “will or won’t NHL players play in the Olympics.” We now know that the NHL players will not be playing for their respective countries in 2018. This comes on the heels of the NHL announcing two preseason games between the L.A. Kings and Vancouver Canucks next year in Beijing.
While Commissioner Gary Bettman considers the matter closed, NHLPA leader Donald Fehr stated that he believes players will respond negatively to the decision.
Among those to react was Jonathan Toews, Blackhawks forward and captain, who was one of the first to speak out against the NHL ruling.
Toews will be the first of many players who will speak out against the NHL’s ruling. He is very proud of his country and has played for Canada on the international stage his whole career. Toews has won a World Junior gold medal and two Olympics gold medals.
The Blackhawks, who are usually well represented during the Olympics, have to be disappointed by the decision. In 2014, the Blackhawks had the most NHL players with Olympics with 10. Their Olympic players were Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, Michal Handzus, Johnny Oduya, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Marcus Kruger and Michal Rozsival.
I have been on the NHL’s side of this argument from the beginning. There are too many risks for NHL franchises to take while sending players to the Olympics.
Here are my three reasons why the NHL was right with this decision:
1. The John Tavares effect. John Tavares injured his knee in the 2014 Olympics and was forced to miss the rest of the regular season. The Islanders would finish last in their division and miss the playoffs. Tavares was third in the league in scoring at the time of injury. He had 66 points in 59 games. Teams cannot risk their stars in non-regular season or playoff games.
Hossa is another example of this. Hossa in 2014 played in four extra games for the Olympics. After the Olympics, the Blackhawks played in a Stadium Series game against the Penguins in which Hossa was injured. He would miss 10 games in 2013-14 after playing in the Olympics.
2. It will stop the league for two weeks. My argument has always been that playing in the Olympics for the NHL is horrible. No other major sport has to stop its season for two weeks to play in international competition. With the Olympic break and now the week-long bye break, the league would stop playing for at least two weeks.
In addition to stopping the league for two weeks, people cannot see their NHL favorite in prime time. I love the Olympics and watch every night. Based on my untrained eye, hockey is rarely on NBC in prime time. If the players went to the Olympics, I would have to go two weeks without seeing my guys Kane and Toews during the regular season.
3. It creates extra games during a long season. The NHL season is 82 games long and has the potential for 28 extra games in the playoffs. That takes a toll on players’ bodies. If you add more games into the mix, how many more star players will break down in the playoffs or before?
Case in point, the Pittsburgh Penguins are the defending Stanley Cup champions, and they have been decimated by injuries on defense this season. It is highly unlikely they will repeat as champions due to injury. Imagine if Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin had to play 10 more games in the middle of this year’s regular season. Could the Penguins be in worse shape heading to playoffs than they are now?
There is a reason there has not been a repeat Stanley Cup winner since the Detroit Red Wings of 1996-97 and 1997-98.
It will be interesting next year to see what happens with NHL players who will try to defy the league and play in the Olympics.