Pyeongchang 2018 has expressed hope that a deal can still be reached for the NHL to send its players to the winter Olympic Games, as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) today (Tuesday) hit out at the North American league’s refusal to back the event.
The NHL yesterday (Monday) confirmed it would not participate in the 2018 Games, stating no “meaningful dialogue” has materialised to convince it of the benefits of disrupting its season so its stars can compete in Pyeongchang.
The NHL’s decision seemingly ends a run of five consecutive winter Games with the league’s players and follows months of back and forth between the organisation, the IIHF and IOC. Stakeholders for the 2018 Games were today left to reflect on the NHL’s verdict.
Sung Baik-you, spokesman for Pyeongchang’s organising committee, said he was still hopeful that the relevant parties will come to “a positive conclusion.” “There's still some time left,” Sung told Korean news agency Yonhap. “And I think all parties will continue to have discussions.”
Monday’s announcement came after the IOC last week claimed that the IIHF had agreed to pay the travel and insurance costs of NHL players for the 2018 Games in a bid to ensure their participation at next year’s event in Pyeongchang.
The IOC has covered these costs for the past five editions of the Games, but has refused to do so for Korea’s Olympics, leading to the standoff between the NHL, IIHF and IOC. However, IOC spokesman Mark Adams said the IIHF had stepped up with the hope that a contribution that could run as high as $20m (€18.4m) may help persuade the NHL to allow its players to compete.
Describing the NHL’s decision as a “huge disappointment” for the players, the IOC said in a statement: “The decision is even more regrettable, as the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) had offered the same conditions to the NHL as at previous Olympic Games, where the insurance and travel costs were covered.
“The IOC, which distributes 90 per cent of its revenue for the development of sport in the world, obviously cannot treat a national commercial league better than not-for-profit International Sports Federations which are developing sport globally.”
IIHF president Rene Fasel added: “While we respect the NHL’s reasons for not taking part, there is no hiding the fact that this is a decision that robs ice hockey fans of the world's greatest best-on-best international ice hockey competition, and our sport of a truly global platform that has been in place since 1998. At the end of the day, ice hockey loses here.”
The IIHF said it had worked to find common ground in the dispute, but will now seek to discuss with participating teams the best path forward. Fasel said: “We have to remember that some of the greatest Olympic moments didn’t involve NHL players at all. We will move forward and continue preparations for Pyeongchang. We still have the task to promote and build our game in Asia, and we will work hard towards this.”