NHL Week in Review (April 2-8)
There is only one story that really matters this week and it is all about the supposed decision made by the league early in the week.
In the midst of what is a great playoff race just before the season ends and the best part of any NHL season begins the league took over the headlines when they announced that they will not attend the 2018 Olympics in Korea next February.
That announcement came after months of speculation and a few years of negotiation between the NHL, NHLPA, IIHF, and the IOC.
It seemed like everyone wanted to go to the Olympics except the league itself and there have been plenty of reasons for that.
The biggest for the league and the owners is that they lose two weeks of their season to the Olympics every four years.
The IOC and IIHF also refused to pay insurance or travel for the athletes and the league was unable to use any of the highlights from the game.
The league wanted some sort of compensation for losing those two weeks and the main bodies in international hockey are not willing to give them anything.
On a business end, it seems like a terrible idea to go to the Olympics but that is also a bit of a short-sighted look at the situation.
For one the players want to go to the Olympics and have never wavered on their commitment to play for their countries.
More recently the NHL has been seen as a new commitment to the Asian market with a pre-season game planned for China and more talk around the fact that they are looking for investors from the region.
Those things made it seem like the league would think ahead when it came to the Olympics and try to go to the games in Korea to help showcase their level of talent in Asia.
The IOC knew this as well and as the negotiations continued they put an ultimatum out there stating that the league would not be allowed to pick and choose Olympics.
It was a clear message that if the NHL decided that they were not going to go to Pyeongchang they could not go to the 2022 Olympics in Beijing.
That was considered a big deal as the NHL has been looking to break into the Chinese market and eliminating the chance for their best players to go to China in 2022 is certainly not something that meshes with their plans for the future.
The IIHF even conceded on some of the issues that the NHL had offering to pay portions of insurance and travel for the players in hopes that it could help them make the decision to attend.
Everything aside from missing two weeks in the season seemed to be going the NHL’s way and for so many, it just seemed like the right decision.
If they decided to go they would appease the players, potentially create stars in the Asian market, and wouldn’t even have to pay full price for travel or insurance.
Yet they decided that they will not go and effectively ended their relationship with the IOC for the foreseeable future.
If the IOC stands by their statements the NHL will not be allowed to participate in the 2022 Olympics in Beijing and possibly beyond that.
It very well could be the end of NHL players in the Olympics forever as the league will likely focus on the World Cup from now on as the top international tournament.
Some players have taken to outright defiance as Alex Ovechkin has stood firm on his position of attending the Olympics regardless of the league’s decision.
Someone at the level of Ovechkin could do it too as there is little that the league or team will do against the superstar of Washington.
He could lead a mass exodus in February next year where the league goes without some of their top players while the Olympics are held.
Whether or not that actually happens remains to be seen and what the league can do to stop it are also massive questions.
The decision not to go has been seen as a terrible one by the league who seemingly has no sight for the future.
Some though think it is just another tactic to get more from the deal and that if the IOC and IIHF come back with a better offer, essentially bending to the league’s wishes, the NHL will decide to go.
That is a risky thing though as the international hockey world might not care enough at this point.
If they don’t come back with another offer the league is stuck and for at least two more Olympic cycles the best players in the world will not be in the biggest international tournament.
The decision brought up more questions that many expected as international teams are now left trying to figure out what their teams will look like in 2018 as they wait to see what certain players might do.
One positive of the decision though could be that the competition in the Olympic tournament gets better.
Teams could see themselves closer than ever and although the level of hockey might not be as good the games could be more entertaining.
(More on this week in hockey)
USA Women on Top
The American Women’s Hockey team made a lot of headlines leading up to the World Championship after protesting to get equal support by USA Hockey leaving them with a lot of pressure to prove that it was worth it and they did that taking home another IIHF Championship
Letang Missing Playoffs
The Pittsburgh Penguins have a chance to repeat as champions but they will be without a key player as Kris Letang will miss the playoffs as he needs surgery to fix a herniated disc in his neck leaving the Pens one weapon short
Brad Marchand is one of the most frustrating and talented players in the league as he made a serious run at a scoring title but has also been in trouble throughout the year including a two-game suspension this week after a speer that kept people criticising him once again
Boston Bruins 3-2 Chicago Blackhawks
– Boston had some scary moments at the end of the year as they struggled but this win against the Blackhawks helped them continue a climb at the end of the year as they moved closer to the playoffs
Toronto Maple Leafs 4-2 Buffalo Sabres
– For Toronto, this rivalry game took on a new meeting and the win they got from the rivalry helped them to climb closer to the playoffs and control their own destiny throughout the final week of the season
Nashville Predators 7-3 Dallas Stars
– After clinching a spot the Preds were looking to avoid a match-up against one of the top two teams and this game helped them stay alive in that pursuit as they took the big win and a chance at getting a top three spot in the division
Toronto Maple Leafs 5-3 Pittsburgh Penguins
– The Leafs did not have the easiest end to their season and despite a few opportunities couldn’t clinch but with another shot against the Pens they took advantage and solidified the final spot in the playoffs this year