NHL will not put season on hold for 2018 Winter Olympics


The NHL will not take a break from its 2017-18 regular season to allow players to participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, the league has announced.

While commissioner Gary Bettman and the owners have been increasingly vocal in their opposition to continuing the practice of an Olympic break, players had held out hope a compromise might be reached, but no such deal is forthcoming.

"We have previously made clear that while the overwhelming majority of our clubs are adamantly opposed to disrupting the 2017-18 NHL season for purposes of accommodating Olympic participation by some NHL players, we were open to hearing from any of the other parties who might have an interest in the issue (e.g., the IOC, the IIHF, the NHLPA, etc.) as to reasons the Board of Governors might be interested in re-evaluating their strongly held views on the subject," the NHL said in a statement.

"A number of months have now passed and no meaningful dialogue has materialised. Instead, the IOC has now expressed the position that the NHL's participation in Beijing in 2022 is conditioned on our participation in South Korea in 2018.

"And the NHLPA has now publicly confirmed that it has no interest or intention of engaging in any discussion that might make Olympic participation more attractive to the clubs.

"As a result, and in an effort to create clarity among conflicting reports and erroneous speculation, this will confirm our intention to proceed with finalising our 2017-18 regular season schedule without any break to accommodate the Olympic Winter Games. We now consider the matter officially closed."

NHL players have been part of the Winter Games since Nagano in 1998 and it remains a high priority for many.

Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin, for one, has long vowed to play for Russia in Pyeongchang in 2018 regardless of the NHL's stance on the matter, and team owner Ted Leonsis has said he won't stand in his players' way.

The risk of injury is a key factor in the owners' motivation to keep NHL players out of the games, particularly after New York Islanders star John Tavares suffered a season-ending knee injury in Sochi in 2014.