To play or not to play in the 2018 Winter Olympics, that is the question still facing National Hockey League owners and National Hockey League players. Apparently, the players want to go to South Korea and compete for the gold, but the owners are still not sure they want to shut down the season for two weeks.
South Korea is just not that important of a hockey area. There will be hockey played in South Korea, but if the NHL says no to going that will strip the hockey portion of the Games of some, not all, of the biggest names in the sport. After all, the Kontinental Hockey League and various European hockey leagues could suspend their seasons to send players along with college and junior players to South Korea.
The NHL probably does not want to miss out on the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, even though there is scant interest in the game in China. So, it is conceivable that the NHL will just sit out the 2018 Olympics and be content with staging the World Cup of Hockey every four years. But the World Cup of Hockey is not going to reach the same number of people who watch the Olympics. It is strictly a tournament for hard core hockey fans and needs to be expanded beyond the greater Toronto area and into some American and European cities.
The decision on allowing NHL players to compete in the 2018 Olympics in South Korea needs to be made soon. The 2017-2018 schedule is a consideration as dates have to be locked in at various arenas and there are promotional considerations such as outdoor games that have to be scheduled and promoted.
Meanwhile, in South Korea there are all sorts of political problems and the Olympics backers are hoping the Games will restore national pride whether the NHL players are there or not.
By Evan Weiner For The Politics Of Sports Business
This article was republished with permission from the original publisher, Evan Weiner.