When the NHL sent out a press release on April 3rd, declaring that they would not participate in the 2018 Olympics, it was a sad day for hockey.
“We now consider the matter officially closed,” the NHL said.
There you have it, official.
The best hockey players in the world would not be participating in the Olympics for the first time since 1994.
But on Tuesday, a glimmer of hope appeared in the form of Russian sports reporter Slava Malamud.
And yes, he’s telling us there’s a chance.
“Russian NHLers have told [Sport-Express writer Alexei Shevchenko] the league has a backup schedule with an Olympic break,” Malamud tweeted. “The league is facing a fierce pushback from, among others, Sidney Crosby on Olympic participation, may yet cave.”
MAY YET CAVE?? Can Sidney Crosby save the Olympic hockey tournament?
If you believe in miracles, this will give you hope.
The NHL has already released its 2017-18 schedule, and it is littered with games during the Olympic men’s hockey tournament (February 13 to 25).
In order to allow players to go to the Games, the NHL will need a gap in their schedule, like the 16-day break they had during the 2014 Olympic tournament in Sochi.
The NHL pulled out of PyeongChang 2018 because of a change in policy whereby player insurance, transportation costs, and accommodation – valued at $15 to 20 million according to league commissioner Gary Bettman – would no longer be covered by the IOC.
The league was already displeased with the level of access they had to use the Olympics as a promotional vehicle, and being asked to pay more tipped them over the edge.
The NHL appears to have a backup plan but it’s hard to imagine Bettman, a commissioner who has cancelled an entire season before, giving in. It’s also tough to imagine a scenario whereby the IOC gives in to a much smaller organization.
Could the NHLPA or IIHF step in to help matters? With less than seven months to go before the start of the tournament, it seems unlikely.
Still, there’s a chance.