The NHL Could Care Less About Its Fanbase
May 30, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; NHL commissioner Gary Bettman speaks at a press conference before game one of the 2016 Stanley Cup Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the San Jose Sharks at Consol Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The NHL has decided that it’s players will not attend the 2018 Winter Olympic Games. This league has become a comedy of errors.

There is a great quote in the movie Gladiator from which the NHL should take note.

“Give the people what they want.”

I’m going to slightly amend this statement to say, “Give the people what they want, especially when these are the people who make the league possible.”

In case you haven’t heard, the NHL will not be participating in the 2018 Olympic Winter Games which are going to be held in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Here is the official statement from the league:

Mr. Gary Bettman, you and your league have officially become a joke.

Under your “leadership,” hockey fans have experience three lockouts in the past 25 years. Simply put, every time the collective bargaining agreement expired under your watch, you and the other clowns running the NHL were not able to strike a deal with the players association.

Who suffered from these lockouts?

The players? The teams? The league? Nope.

Hockey fans suffered, of course. The girl or guy who watches hockey to escape their stressful reality suffered. Families who gather on the weekends to watch the sport suffered. Young children whose role models are hockey players suffered.

Here we sit, only a handful of years removed from the latest lockout, and Bettman has pulled the Olympics from the grasp of hockey fans around the world.

What a joke.

The possibility of an NHL pullout from the Games was obvious when the league hosted the World Cup of Hockey this past fall. This competition was a poor excuse for a tournament.

The whole concept was flawed with the construction of Team North America and Team Europe. If you are going to host international play, countries should be represented. Not continents.

And then there was ESPN’s awful coverage. The commentary was horrible (Barry Melrose’s color commentary was atrocious), the presentation mediocre at best and the forced “fake” drama was just embarrassing.

So that’s what is supposed to take place of the Olympics now? What a mess.

The Olympic Games are (were) a special event for hockey fans. They have given fans memories like this:

Zach Parise’s goal tied Canada with seconds left on the clock and pushed that Gold Medal Game into overtime.

Or who could forget T.J. Oshie’s shootout performance against Russia in 2014.

The Olympics unite entire countries and fans who would never share a rooting interest during an NHL season.

It’s very likely that we will not experience these exciting moments for a very long time. Europe and Russia will easily dominate international play.

Any hockey players worth their salt in Canada and the United States will not be allowed to participate in the Olympics. This duty will once again be relegated to B-level college hockey players. Drafted players will not be able to participate in the games.

It’s ironic that Canada could possibly be one of the weakest teams in the tournament.

As per usual, the NHL tried to blame the NHLPA for this debacle. Here is the official statement from the players’ association.

Let’s make one thing very clear. The fans are the ones who matter most in this equation. We are the ones who makes the league financially viable.

There are those who would suggest that if we dislike what the league is doing, then we shouldn’t watch.

This is an unfair statement to make because we’re all addicts. We are addict to this sport we love for a variety of reasons.

This is a sport that brings together families, friends, and even whole nations every four years.

If you are holding onto the success of the 1980 USA hockey team, you are in for some serious disappoint come 2018. That Gold Medal team truly carried out a miracle which sports had not previously witnessed.

It’s sad to say, but the likelihood of the NHL finally looking out for their fans at this point would also be a miracle.

 NEXT: New York Rangers mane game: 2017 All-Hockey Hair Team 


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Chris Wengert

I’ve been a die hard Rangers and Giants fan for as long as I can remember. I enjoy sharing opinions, and hearing from fans that love their teams just as much as I do. Henrik Lundqvist makes all of us look like mere mortals.

E-mail me at: Chris.Wengert@elitesportsny.com