Watching players of the National Hockey League (NHL) balance themselves on a pair of skates while chasing down a puck and avoiding oncoming athletes might have been one of the most enthralling events in the Winter Olympics. There's just something so intriguing and captivating seeing all of the aggression and intensity go down on ice, y'know? But this year's Olympics will be different — NHL players aren't allowed to play. If you were wondering why aren't NHL players competing in the Olympics, here's everything you need to know.
In a nutshell, in April 2017, the NHL chose not to allow their players to compete in the 2018 Olympics because the event would require a 17-day break from their regular schedules, according to the NHL website. The longer story, though, is all kinds of drama.
In a statement released by the organization, the NHL said though the majority of their clubs were opposed to "disrupting the 2017-18 NHL season" for Olympic participation, they were originally open to hearing from other relative organizations who might have been able to sway the issue — like the International Olympics Committee (IOC), the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) and the National Hockey League Players' Association (NHLPA) — but after months, no "meaningful dialogue" had happened.
Reportedly, the IOC, which traditionally pays for the players' insurance, travel, and other accommodations, refused to do so in 2018. And the NHL's statement said that the NHLPA had "publicly confirmed" that it had "no interest or intention of engaging in any discussion" to make Olympic participation happen.
The statement continued:
As a result, and in an effort to create clarity among conflicting reports and erroneous speculation, this will confirm our intention to proceed with finalizing our 2017-18 regular season schedule without any break to accommodate the Olympic Winter Games. We now consider the matter officially closed.
The NHL also conducted a poll to see how their fans felt on the topic, according to their website. The poll asked Canadians and Americans if they favored the League taking a break so players could play in the Olympics. 73 percent of Americans voted "no," while 53 percent of Canadians said they were not in favor. So that might have ultimately helped finalize their plans.
But all of it sucks, considering the fact that the players themselves opposed the decision.
A statement from the NHLPA, released in April 2017, read:
The players are extraordinarily disappointed and adamantly disagree with the NHL’s shortsighted decision not to continue our participation in the Olympics. Any sort of inconvenience the Olympics may cause to next season’s schedule is a small price to pay compared to the opportunity to showcase our game and our greatest players on this enormous international stage.
The decision also caused major uproar from other hockey fans, who have watched the NHL compete in the Olympics over the years. As a result, the United States has created a new men's hockey team of NCAA college athletes, European-based athletes and others playing in other hockey leagues, so maybe that'll give NHL fans a little more peace.
On the bright side, the women's team is still slated to compete in the Olympics.
Though NHL players have suffered an irreversible fate, the U.S. Olympic Women's Ice Hockey Team is still expected to participate in the Olympics, scheduled to begin on Feb. 8 in PyeongChang, South Korea. The team has played in every Winter Olympics since 1998, bringing home bronze, silver and gold medals over the years, according to their website. So hockey fans should expect a thrilling experience — with or without the men's team.
Anyway, it's comforting to know that NHL players will be putting all of their energy into their regular season, which is much longer than the Olympics and gives us an even longer amount of time to watch them battle it out on ice. Things are looking up, after all.
To learn more, visit teamusa.org. The Winter Olympics will air live, starting Feb. 8.