Bettman ruins the Olympics

I now have no reason to watch the Olympics.

The NHL is not making concessions for its players to take part in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics next year.

I would like to say this is some sort of surprise, but it’s not. It’s just more of the same attitude I have come to expect from NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. I am not sure if it is outright animosity or simple ignorance that causes Bettman to continue making decisions that alienate fans from the league he is supposed to be promoting.

NHLers began taking part in the Olympics in 1998. Before then, I paid no attention to Olympic hockey. It was the NHL only for me, as it was the highest level of hockey out there. Plus, despite liking international hockey, I was tired of seeing Canadian teams get mauled. The Olympics, plus the NHL, made sense to me so I tuned in. Sure, Canada didn’t medal in 1998, but they took gold in 2002 – and aside from a fall from grace in Turin, Italy in 2006 – took gold in 2010 and again 2014.

Even without the gold medals, and admittedly winning is pretty cool, I enjoyed the hockey. It was fast and exciting. Now, we’re looking at returning to the days where I have no idea who is playing and not really caring. Sure, I don’t know the guys playing in the World Juniors every year but those games are fun because it is nice to see non-professionals playing for pride. (Of course that is a ridiculously naïve statement, as the juniors are playing not only for pride but also draft status, which can mean a lot when it comes to professional careers. Still, I go with the pride notion as I am a bit of a romantic.)

Now, that’s over… sort of. The International Olympic Committee, for all intents and purposes, told the NHL participation in the 2022 games was contingent on participating in 2018. The NHL doesn’t really care about expanding its international market to Korea but they are pushing for more recognition in China. Playing in the China Olympics will mean the same problems for the NHL in terms of rearranging the schedule or the league continuing operations minus some of its stars, but there is more money to be made in China, and since money rules the day, here we are.

While the NHL is not changing its schedule for next year, some NHLers are saying they will play anyway. If this is the case, the International Ice Hockey Federation will have to rule on which players are eligible to play, and that might lead to a few out-of-joint noses and possibly disrupt any future plans for NHLers in the Olympics… which is also great.

Basically, the sky is falling and everything is horrible.

Seriously though, I am fine to let Bettman ruin the NHL. He wants to put a team in Columbus, Ohio? Why not? He wants to put a team in the desert? Fine. He wants to put another team in the desert? Sure. He can put another NHL team in the middle of a partially submerged oil tanker for all I care. I just want him to stay out of the Olympics before he ruins that too.

I’m done now.

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Antigonish native Matt Draper has been a photographer, reporter and columnist for The Reporter since 2003.