What if the ice hockey events at the 2018 Winter Olympics were to be held at a different date?
The NHL and IIHF have yet to reach a decision as to whether NHL players will attend the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. There have been many reports and discussions about this decision (see Elliotte Friedman’s post “What we learned about NHL participation in the 2018 Olympics“) but despite IIHF and Rene Fasel finding the necessary money to cover insurance for the players, a decision has yet to be made.
The NHL has never liked stopping its season for a break to let it’s high profile (expensive) commodities travel around the world (or Vancouver) to compete in an event that NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman sees no benefit to the league or it’s owners. Despite the fact the players like playing in it, fans love watching it and helps grow the profile of the sport of ice hockey globally (for men and women).
Here is a solution that might make both sides happy – change the date of the ice hockey events. Move the ice hockey events – men and women or just men – to be played in September. What dates? What about the same time as the World Cup of Hockey, in mid-September.
Now, you may think this is crazy but it has been done before. The equestrian events of the 1956 Olympics were not only held at a different date, they were held in a different country. The 1956 Summer Olympics were hosted in Melbourne, Australia but Australia had strict laws on foreign horses entering the country. So, the International Olympic Committee sought a solution and decided to use Sweden’s Stockholm Olympic Stadium as the venue for equestrian events. The Melbourne Olympics took place between November – December and the equestrian events were held in June.
Now, I am sure Bettman would love to change the location and have the hockey event at one of his NHL venues, but that’s not the point. The point is that the IOC has made exceptions for events to be held at a different date. Also, South Korea has a built a brand new arena to house the ice hockey events and I am sure they want it to be used.
So, a precedent as been set and this will help alleviate the concern for Bettman and the NHL owners that their season being stopped in the middle. Yes, there it is the argument that ice hockey is one of the most popular events at the Winter Olympics and moving it would hurt TV ratings and upset sponsors. An option would be to move the men’s event because the women’s event continues to be a big draw for TV audiences and it would show that the women’s game can stand alone as a marquee attraction.
With that suggestion, I hope to see NHL player’s participating in the upcoming 2018 Winter Olympics. Ice hockey played at the highest international level deserves to have the best players much like the other Olympic events.