BNHL Commissioner Gary Bettman apparently heard that Roger Goodell had once again passed him for the title of most hated commissioner in American sports and decided he couldn’t let that stand. That’s really the only acceptable theory as to why yesterday Bettman and the NHL officially announced that the league would not be taking a break next winter to allow its stars to play in the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. The Winter Olympics are already the cute but definitely not hot friend of the Summer Olympics, and taking away the recognizable international stars from one of the only sports with that star power is really flipping the bird to the International Olympic Committee, South Korea, the NHL players, hockey fans, and really anyone that isn’t a billionaire owner of an NHL franchise. Safe to say that this is a real dick move by Gary.
Gary, of course, pointed to as many reasons as he could to cover up the fact that this is all about keeping the owners happy (read: rich. Plus, the fact that he moonlights as Sesame Street’s resident money cruncher is pretty damning to any counterargument). First, he claimed that the IOC wasn’t going to fund the league’s Olympic participation in 2018. Fine, real concern, I guess. But when the International Ice Hockey Federation said they would fund it instead, Gary expressed “concerns” that that money could be better spent growing the game of hockey in other ways. First, I cannot think of a better way to increase the popularity of hockey than by sending all of its superstars to go play in a hugely populous country in front of an international audience in the most anticipated television event of the season. But this is the same Gary Bettman that thinks that putting hockey teams in Phoenix and Las Vegas is good for hockey, as well, so pardon me for giving Gary not a damn shred of credibility when it comes to thoughts on growing the sport.
He also tried the predictable player safety and player fatigue arguments, since apparently 30-year old men aren’t allowed to make their own decisions about their health and injury risks. Just admit it Gary, the league was gonna lose a few days’ worth of revenue and that was more important than giving the fans and players what they want and growing the sport long term on an international level. This is the dictionary definition of short-sighted.
NHL players immediately took to Twitter, because where else, to make their feelings known on the matter. Shockingly, the players weren’t cool with being treated like children and having this decision made for them.
Honestly, I was rooting for a few more stars to step up and really rip into Gary, but the sentiment is still there. Here’s hoping that Ovi and Crosby and the NHL blue bloods actually do up the ante and go to South Korea anyways. The NHL is already lacking a plethora real off-ice star power, and it’d be tough to imagine Bettman playing a game of chicken he isn’t sure he can win. Still, for putting money over the sport, the fans, and the world, the NHL is this week’s Bum of the Week.