Mac Engel

NHL blows it again on Winter Olympics

The 2018 Winter Games have begun, and without the NHL players participating, no one will have a clue who the vast majority of the players are in the world's biggest ice hockey tournament.
The 2018 Winter Games have begun, and without the NHL players participating, no one will have a clue who the vast majority of the players are in the world's biggest ice hockey tournament. Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

With a fresh set of tensions between neighboring countries thriving, the Winter Olympics has begun in South Korea and a league that always needs eye balls decided the best course of action was to remain invisible.

You probably were not going to watch anyways, but the NHL's decision to stay out of the 2018 Winter Olympics all but guarantees virtually no viewership for hockey.

The vast majority will have no clue as to the names of any of the players in the tournament, but you should know that Canada is vulnerable to not winning the gold medal. With the exception of England failing in the World Cup, there are few events as entertaining as watching Canada take silver or bronze in hockey.

Take a bow, Gary Bettman.

The sports commissioner who will never die or retire is simply following the wishes of the 31 NHL owners on staying out of the Games, but a stronger figure would have convinced everyone involved that participating in the Winter Games is good for business.

The league, the IOC and the International Hockey Federation could not agree to who would pay for what when it came to the costs of NHL players in the Olympics. Previously, the IOC covered it but no longer agreed to pay.

The leaders of the three organizations should have figured this one out.

The players are livid over the deliberate exclusion, to the point where its union may actually try to leverage its way back into the Olympics during the next collective bargaining agreement. NHL players consider the chance to play for their country in an international event an honor, and the Olympics to be on par with the Stanley Cup.

The NHL's decision to drop the Winter Games concludes a run that began in 1998, and is entirely about the league feeling it did not generate the type of ROI it wanted considering it stopped its season for nearly three weeks, and put its best players at risk.

The reason it didn't have that ROI is because it's hockey. The NHL, and the sport, need all of the help it can possibly get and there is no bigger global platform than the Olympics. You don't run from that opportunity, and exposure.

The single biggest reason basketball shot up globally is because of the NBA player's participation in the Olympics, which began in 1992.

The NHL wants the same type of impact, but it will never see it because, again, it's hockey. From the equipment to ice time, hockey is a more expensive to play and requires far more elements - like, cold weather - than basketball.

In response to leaving the Winter Olympics, the NHL and the NHLPA came to an agreement to create the World Cup of Hockey. The event re-started back in 2016 with the idea that it will run every four years. The tournament was held just before the start of the regular season.

Outside of maybe Toronto, the 2016 WCH was so bad, dull and confusing that it had no impact on the sport. Good players suffered serious injuries in that one, too.

What the WCH did was to allow the league and the NHLPA to split whatever profits there were, and not have to endure any extended stoppage during the NHL's regular season.

Everything the NHL did made sense with one possible exception, it turned down the Olympics.

The IOC and the Olympics have been revealed to be flawed, money grubbers, but it's still the Olympics. You don't turn that down..

The NHL did just that, and here we sit: For the first time since 1994, the Winter Olympics will feature a hockey tournament with virtually no name you know.

The players will be a collection of NCAA players, Euros and a host of other names you won't recognize with the possible exception of a few former NHLers.

The Winter Games are here and while millions will watch the curling, skiing and luging, the NHL, and the IOC, just gave us one more reason not to watch a hockey game.