This year we saw the NHL announce that they would not be allowing players to partake in the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. This came about as commissioner Gary Bettman stated that he did not want the Olympics to disrupt the NHL’s regular season of ice hockey.
When the free agency started earlier this month the NHL saw a number of players deciding to sign with the KHL where they will be able to take part in the Olympics. Among these players was Roman Lyubimov (pictured above) from the Philadelphia Flyers. Lyubimov chose to sign with CSKA Moscow on a 3-year deal, with his agent Dan Milstein stating that the opportunity to play in the Olympics was ‘part’ of the reason for leaving the NHL.
Another player to leave the NHL was Ilya Kovalchuk who turned down a contract from the New Jersey Devils to play back in the KHL. Kovalchuk stated that only players in the KHL and European Championships will be able to take part in the historical event. So what should the NHL do?
Players appear to pride themselves over the opportunity to play for their country and with more and more players entering the NHL from outside North America can we honestly expect them to give up such a right?
The Winter Olympics is a historic event dating back to France in 1924 with ice hockey being one of the original five sports taking part. The inaugural games saw Canada take Gold and the Unites States take Silver. These games are a part of history for all countries that play modern hockey. Canada, the USA, Russia (formerly the Soviet Union), and other European countries have all seen greats from their country take part in the tournament, and solidify their name in history by being an Olympic medalist.
The NHL may have the best money, equipment, and coaches, but you can not buy the honor of winning for your country. If the NHL keeps this decision it will only deter talent further. More players will opt out of signing with the NHL and we may begin to see bigger leagues forming overseas.
Maybe it is time to boost international hockey to the forefront. Or maybe we should remember the importance and history of the Olympics. The NHL and Olympics are both a privilege, and one should not have to feel like they cannot take part in either.
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