The NHL's decision not to participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics prevents some of the sport's best talent from ever getting a shot at a gold medal — or the chance to represent their country on the ice, former Toronto Maple Leafs star Darryl Sittler says.
The move disappointed one of Canada's hockey greats not just as a former player, but as a fan, he said.
"We want to see the best against the best," Sittler said in an interview with Matt Galloway on Metro Morning. "That's what makes the series like that so spectacular."
The NHL announced it would not be participating in the 2018 Olympics in South Korea Monday afternoon, prompting fans and some players, to express disappointment and frustration on Twitter.
Sittler said it's a loss for players, who may not get another chance to compete on this kind of international stage.
"The Olympics are something that come around every four years," Sittler said. "A career is so short as it is ... When you're in your prime and you get selected you might not have that opportunity again ... eight years later."
Still, Sittler said he understands why owners may not support players who want to attend the winter games since ticket sales often take a hit when there's a delay in regular season game play.
"Certainly there is a lot of money at stake," Sittler said.
And he acknowledged that there's also the possibility that a team's star player could get hurt at the Olympics.
"There's certainly a lot of risk."
But Sittler, who played for Team Canada in the 1976 Canada Cup, said that international competition became a defining moment in his career.
"Any time any of us have an opportunity to play for our country, there's obviously another level of emotion that comes with that," the hockey great said. "We know we want to be number 1 in the world and when we play in those series we play for that."
"It's disappointing," he said of the NHL's decision. "For all of us."