When the NHL announced they would abstain from attending the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, mixed emotions developed from the players, coaches, and broadcasters that are all involved with the sport of hockey.

The NHL released this statement on Monday, April 3rd, regarding their decision:

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This became a hot topic amongst the many fans of the NHL, and a common question reporters asked to the players and coaches during media scrums.

Just a few hours after the NHL’s statement was released, the NHL Players’ Association posted an affidavit of their own:

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According to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, the decision was revealed before the playoffs begin so the matter would be left behind. But the party is just getting started. There’s a feeling that this topic will never be left alone, because it might possibly be the start of a domino effect that leads to a lockout in the 2019-2020 season. And what everyone’s most annoyed about? The players had no say in this decision.

Considering the fact that they’re the ones who play for the NHL, you would think that their thoughts and ideas might be a great factor into this decision. It’s clear that the refusal to go to the Olympics was a business decision between the NHL, the IOC, the IIHF, and no one else.

So, what do the players and coaches have to say about this verdict? Here’s a compilation of quotes from members of the NHL community:

 

Blake Wheeler – United States

Forward, Winnipeg Jets

“It’s too bad. A real good opportunity wasted. At the winter Olympics, hockey is a big deal. It’s one of the big draw and it’s a real great opportunity to get our sport front and center. We’ve had some great moments at the Olympics, some great games that enhanced the popularity. The next two Olympics are in countries that are untapped for our sport. It was a unique opportunity to go over there and have similar types of games we’ve had in the past few Olympics to broaden our horizons a little bit.” (via Winnipeg Free Press)

Kyle Palmieri – United States

Forward, New Jersey Devils

“I don’t know about mad. Disappointed, obviously, that you put yourself into a position to have a chance to maybe make that team, call yourself an Olympian. It’s something you grow up dreaming about. It’s tough to get mad at. You can’t be mad at a certain person. Just to be mad at a decision (for the sake) of being mad isn’t something you have to do, either. It’s a waste of energy at that point. For me, you dream about being an Olympian and competing for a gold medal.” (via NJ.com)

Philipp Grubauer – Germany

Goaltender, Washington Capitals

“It’s a big question mark for me. On one side, they want to expand and have a preseason game over there, then the most important tournament where they can represent the players as well as the league, they bail out of it. Personally, for me growing up, we didn’t get much NHL games on television, so we always watched the Olympic games. You always saw the NHL guys playing over there; that’s what made it so interesting. For me, personally, you go through the tournament in the summer, you start the season early, you risk yourself getting injured, you go through all of that stuff in the summer to try and represent your country and try to get your team back into the Olympics, then they say no. It’s kind of disappointing and hard for guys to understand probably. They don’t know what’s going on. But also that’s the nature of the business probably. It’s still a long way to go. I don’t know if things are going to change, if they come to an agreement or whatever.” (via Isabelle Khurshudyan on Twitter)

Jonathan Toews – Canada

Forward, Chicago Blackhawks

“At the end of the day, I guess you have to respect your employers, your owner’s decision. But I guess my personal opinion – it just seems unfortunate that the players voice that it’s something that they think is beneficial not only for them, but for the league and for our game as a whole. And it automatically turns into a negotiation. It just seems like it comes down to what they can get out of us when the next CBA negotiation rolls around. It’s not about the long term goals of our game and growing it and the bigger picture. Not only for the players that are presently at the top of the game that want to play in the Olympics and represent their countries next year in South Korea. But it’s obviously about the future, as well. Obviously I disagree with the short-sightedness of this whole thing, too. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem that players can get that cooperation from the league. Tough bounce.” (via Mark Lazerus on Twitter)

Duncan Keith – Canada

Defenseman, Chicago Blackhawks

“It’s a tough position as a player. You want to be respectful of the team and your owner who pays you the money, but you also want to be patriotic every chance you can and play for your country. It’s a tough decision. I think that’ll be based on the individual, and the team.” (via Christoper Hine on Twitter)

Cory Schneider – United States

Goaltender, New Jersey Devils

“There’s no guarantee you’re ever going to make the team. I like to think I’d be in the conversation or maybe on a short list, but you still have to go out there and make the team if they were to have the Olympics. But yeah it’s probably going to be my last shot, even if they go in 2022. I’ll be 36 by then so I don’t know how realistic that would be, but again you never know. Haven’t tried to think about it too much because it’s a lot of what ifs.” (via NJ.com)

Jakub Voracek – Czech Republic

Forward, Philadelphia Flyers

“It’s the Olympics. It doesn’t get better than that. On the other hand, you’ve got the owners paying us a lot of money. They don’t want us to get hurt, but I think sometimes you forget about the respect for the sport. If you don’t go, you feel like an a-hole for not going for Czech. If you go, you feel like an a-hole toward the guys here and the organization. There’s no win-win situation in this case. That’s for sure. You can see that every players wants to go, but they still say we’re not going. We really don’t have that power.” (via Courier Post)

Ben Lovejoy – United States

Defenseman, New Jersey Devils

“I have mixed emotions. As a 10-year-old in 1994, it was the highlight of my winter, watching the Olympics as a little kid. It was so special. I think that’s a real opportunity to build young fans. As an NHL player who has no chance of making Team USA for the Olympics, I’m okay with it. I don’t like stopping our season in February. The compacted schedule that we play this year and that we’ve played in previous Olympic years is very difficult on our bodies. I think guys do not have the rest they need to continuously bring it every night for 82 games. It’s a huge break in February when we have it, and it’s hard to come back from it. More so for me, it’s the games in November and December where we’re playing 17 games a month with no rest. Guys are sick more often, guys can’t recover from injuries, they can’t recover from minor injuries because we play so many games. Every game at this level is so intense, and you need to bring it every night. You’re not able to sleep, you’re not able to recover after games, and because of that, I’m okay with it.” (via NJ.com)

Dylan Larkin – United States

Forward, Detroit Red Wings

“It’s my first chance at making the Olympic team. It’s pretty disappointing. The team, the young guys that are coming up through USA Hockey, the last four drafts, there are guys all over the first round. We grew up watching the Vancouver Olympics, the Sochi Olympics. With Canada winning the last two [Games], you want to get there. They’re the champions of the world. With the youthfulness of USA Hockey, we would want to change that.” (via ESPN)

John Hynes – United States

Head coach, New Jersey Devils

“It’s a league decision, and when you look at some of the reasons, business-wise, that’s what the league decided to do. I know from an experience standpoint, it’s disappointing, because I think when you have the NHL players in the Olympics, it is best on best, and it is exciting hockey to watch. Whenever you have the opportunity to represent your country, it is really special for players and coaches and all involved. So from that standpoint it is disappointing you won’t have the NHL flavor in the Olympics. “(via NJ.com)

Anton Stralman – Sweden

Defenseman, Tampa Bay Lightning

“Surprised? I don’t know if I was surprised, honestly. They can make up all these excuses not to go, like players’ health and all that stuff, I don’t think they really care about that. All they care about is more money – that’s the bottom line and that’s what it’s all about and that’s even more sad to me that a few billionaires trying to make an extra buck, that’s even more sad. They’re taking away an opportunity for players to go and play in a tournament that they value very highly and takes that away.” (via TampaBay.com)

Nathan MacKinnon – Canada

Forward, Colorado Avalanche

“I think it’s obviously the owners’ decision. It’s too bad. It’s a time for us to showcase the best players in the world and grow the game in places where hockey’s not very big, such as Korea…This is an opportunity for us to grow it, with Beijing coming up in 2022 as well. Korea and China are places we haven’t really tapped yet, and I think that’s important. Hopefully something gets resolved and maybe they’ll change it, I’m not sure. Obviously, it’s unfortunate. It’s always in the back of your mind. It’s a dream of mine to go one day. Looks like it won’t be this time, but hopefully, maybe, we go to Beijing…It’s a cool event, I think. If I was a kid and I heard that, I’d be crushed. It sucks for fans out there as well.”(via Denver Post)

Kevin Shattenkirk – United States

Defenseman, Washington Capitals

“I’d tip my caps to those guys for doing it. I think that’s something that I’m sure will cause trouble with your team, but if that’s your sentiment and that’s how you feel, then absolutely, you should honor that and be proud that you did it. I definitely wouldn’t hold anything against you. It just seems like they want to use it as a bargaining chip. That’s wrong. That’s not what the Olympics is for. The reason we started going was so we could grow the game and show the world how great it is when you get the best players in the world playing against each other. That’s what we’re trying to achieve with the World Cup, but that’s going to take time and this is right in the prime of it. The last Olympics was fantastic, and to just dismiss it, really, without much conversation is tough.” (via Washington Post)

Gabriel Landeskog – Sweden

Forward, Colorado Avalanche

“I think it’s too bad, to be honest with you. I know growing up, watching Sweden in the Olympics and watching men’s hockey, our whole high school would sit still and everybody got a break off school. They showed it in the cafeteria, and everybody was there, the whole school, students, teachers, everything. Olympics, that’s what a lot of kids dream about, especially to participate. That’s a great honor for your country and to be part of that, but also to win an Olympic medal. It doesn’t happen often to get that chance, and I think it’s too bad, disappointing to say the least…You’re playing for your country. Nobody’s making any money. You’re playing for the pride and you’re playing for your jersey and your country. The owners say they don’t want any players getting hurt and whatnot, and I can understand that, but from a player’s perspective, you go and play for your country. And that’s it. You’re playing for your pride and your country and wanting to win a gold medal for your country. So I think it was too bad and I was disappointed to hear that news…I hope it’s not the end of that decision. I want to play in the Olympics and I want to play for my country, and we’ll see where it ends up.” (via Denver Post)

Patrik Laine – Finland

Forward, Winnipeg Jets

“I think it’s unfortunate to see the NHL say no. And I think everybody that is playing here would want to go and represent their country in the Olympics. The first Olympics, that would be a huge opportunity for me to be there with my country and try to win the gold medal. It’s unfortunate to see that. I’ve always been watching the Olympics, it doesn’t matter what sport it is. I’m always interested, especially when Finland is playing hockey. I’ve watched a lot of games.” (via Winnipeg Free Press)

Henrik Lundqvist – Sweden

Goaltender, New York Rangers

“I’m pretty disappointed, I must say. I think it’s such a unique opportunity for the players, but also the game of hockey, to showcase this game. The Olympics is so amazing to be part of. I think it’s a great opportunity to grow the game in Asia. I know the NHL is going to host a couple of games out there. So to me it makes sense to do it, to go there, let the players be part of something very unique, something we grew up dreaming about, but also an opportunity for the NHL to showcase the game. But again, the Olympics have been some of the most amazing experiences for me as an athlete. To be part of the Olympic village with all the other athletes, to compete at that level, there’s something that’s so – I can’t really find the word for it. But when you’re in the Olympics, it’s not about the money, it’s not about fame, it’s not about anything other than trying to play for your country and win that gold medal. It’s a very cool experience. (via New York Post)

Brad Marchand – Canada

Forward, Boston Bruins

“A lot of things can happen between now and next February. But yeah I think anyone who could have that opportunity to be there would be disappointed. We’ve worked our whole lives to put ourselves in a position to be there. And I think guys deserve that opportunity. It’s unfair that anyone can tell them that they’re unable to go, but again if it were to come down to where we didn’t go it would be disappointing, but it’s a long ways away and a lot of things in between that we need to worry about. They seem to want to go in 2022, so if [they weren’t benefiting from the Olympics], they wouldn’t talk about going there either. But again that’s up to them. They’re the best businessmen in the world and they know that they’re not going to give up anything for free. They’re going to want something in return and that’s the way it’s looking right now. So again there’s still a lot of time for it to play out but we have a lot more things to worry about right now than that stuff and when it comes down to it, if we don’t go then we don’t go, it’s out of our control.” (via Boston Herald)

Mike Babcock – Canada

Head coach, Toronto Maple Leafs

April 3rd – “This is what I’m going to do: I’m just going to tell you I’m disappointed.”

March 20th – “I think it’s really important (we go). I think getting your name on the Stanley Cup is something you dream about, and playing for your country in the Olympics – playing best-on-best – there’s no better event. Just there is none. So to have that opportunity, I think it’s important. I think it’s important to showcase your game every year – just not to pick and choose when it’s your turn and you’d like to go. I think it’s important, but I don’t own any teams.”

September 27th – “I like the opportunity to represent your country where the heat is on you and you have to deliver. I think that’s a huge part of the Olympic Games. The other thing is the World Cup is great, (but) it’s not the Olympics. Let’s not get confused.”

(via SportsNet)

Jack Eichel – United States

Forward, Buffalo Sabres

“It’s a little bit disappointing, obviously, as a player who takes pride in representing his country and who’s done it before. I think I can only speak for myself, I think it’s something the players in the NHL look forward to, and as a young kid just breaking into the league, it’s something I definitely watched growing up and looked forward to every year…Obviously, as a league, we’re trying to grow our game all over the world and make it more popular. I think the Olympics is a good way to do it. I can’t comment on the NHL’s decision. I know there’s probably guys who are frustrated with it and a little bit disappointed.” (via SportsNet)

Alex Ovechkin – Russia

Forward, Washington Capitals

“I didn’t change my mind, and I won’t. It’s my country. You know, I think everybody wants to play there, and it’s the biggest opportunity in your life to play in the Olympic Games. So I don’t know. Somebody going to tell me don’t go, I don’t care. I just go.”(via Washington Post)

Lindy Ruff – Canada

Head coach, Dallas Stars

“It’s a disappointment for me, being involved in two of them. It’s a huge showcase event where every player gets to represent his country. It’s become a real elite event, and it’s become a major focus at the Winter Olympics. I think it is something that is going to be missed. You are sharing that experience with a lot of athletes from a lot of different sports who are the best in their business, and you’re the best in your business. You’re not only pushing for your teammates, you’re pushing for your country to do well.” (via SportsDay Dallas)

 

If you have any other quotes from players, coaches, owners, or anyone else involved in the NHL, please feel free to reach out to me with my contact information below.

Juliana Nikac – Feature Contributor

Twitter – @juliananikac

Email – julianaanicolee@gmail.com

 

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