After months and months of negotiation, the NHL finally made official what many have long assumed would be the case - that the League will not be participating in the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang:
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.
As much as they’d like to consider it “officially closed”, of course, that’s clearly not the case. Here’s what we know:
- Alex Ovechkin has stated on numerous occasions that he’s going to the Olympics whether or not the NHL participates.
- Ovechkin’s decision has been supported, at least publicly, by Caps’ majority owner Ted Leonsis:
“Alex Ovechkin and his family and the Capitals and I are in it together. He's given so much to our organization, and I would respect what he wanted to do and be very supportive of him. On this one matter I understand and I would support him.”
- That Leonsis backs Ovechkin may not be enough, as it’s rumored the League could take additional action to prevent this from happening despite support from select ownership.
Sources: NHLPA’s Don Fehr told agent meeting in Vancouver he expects NHL to stop owners from allowing individual players to go to Olympics.— Rick Westhead (@rwesthead) April 4, 2017
It’s no secret that the Olympics have a special place in Alex Ovechkin’s heart, and he’s not alone in this - the players want to be there, and the NHLPA issued a statement yesterday underlining that fact:
The players are extraordinarily disappointed and adamantly disagree with the NHL's shortsighted decision to not 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.
So... where does that leave us? Will Ovechkin go even if the League takes additional action to prevent it? What does that mean for his future in the NHL going forward, and the futures of any other players who may join him? Will Leonsis support him despite the League’s crackdown - and would his support extend to other Caps, as well? What are the CBA implications?
The only thing that is clear is that, with ten months to go until the Pyeongchang Olympic Games, this “officially closed” matter brings up far more questions than answers. Stay tuned.