The International Olympic Committee says its disappointed but not surprised by the National Hockey League’s decision to pull out of next year’s Winter Games.
Home to the world’s best ice hockey players, the NHL said on Monday that it’s not been able to solve the problem of halting its league mid-season to accomodate the Olympics.
The IOC president, Thomas Bach, says he feels extremely sorry for the athletes but left the door open for those who want to participate.
“When you have been reading the recent statements by the NHL and then it could not come as a surprise. If any player wants top join his team, any NHL player then he is most welcome at the Olympic Games. Obviously, they (NHL) wanted more money or whatever; we don’t know what they really wanted,” said Bach.
Unhappy over the prospect of shutting down their season for nearly three weeks, the NHL had been seeking major concessions from the IOC, including recognition comparable to that of an Olympic top sponsor.
The decision will impact almost every major ice-hockey-playing nation since the Swedish, Finnish, Russian, Canadian and US teams are almost entirely comprised of NHL representative.
The Pyeongchange Games will take place in South Korea from Feb. 9-25 next year.
Here’s the NHL’s statement in full
Some ice hockey fans and players have taken to Twitter to express their feelings over the move.
Some players have said they would like to go to the Games irrespective of what the league decided.
“We players knew nothing, because naturally they haven’t spoken to us,” Ottawa Senators captain Erik Karlsson told Swedish sports newspaper Sportbladet. “It’s so idiotic. Whoever did this has obviously no idea what they are doing.”
With both the 2018 and the 2022 Winter Games in Asia and the NHL making efforts to tap into that region’s lucrative market, the logic behind the decision was lost on Swedish goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who plays for the New York Rangers.
“Disappointing news, @NHL won’t be part of the Olympics 2018. A huge opportunity to market the game at the biggest stage is wasted,” he said on Twitter.