The NHL said no to the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics and players aren't happy

After nearly three years of talks, the NHL announced Monday it will not participate in the 2018 Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, a decision that is turning out to be incredibly unpopular with many players.

​"It's crap. I don't understand the decision," said a clearly disgruntled Erik Karlsson to CBC Windsor.

"We have no say in the matter and it's very unfortunate for the game of hockey around the world."

The Swedish player and captain of the Ottawa Senators is among many high-profile players voicing discontent in the wake of the announcement.

One of the most outspoken against the decision has been another Swede — Henrik Lundqvist. The New York Rangers goaltender tweeted that "a huge opportunity to market the game at the biggest stage is wasted."



Carey Price, who helped lead Team Canada to a gold medal at the Sochi Olympics in 2014, said it's a particularly tough blow to the younger players.

"I feel like we're short-changing some of the younger players that haven't had that opportunity," he said. "It's tough to swallow for some of those kids, I'm sure. At a human level, this is a big worldwide event that the world takes part in and you know, we want to shine our light too."

Marc Savard, a Canadian who is under contract with the New Jersey Devils, joked that tryouts for the team will be posted at local rinks.

Canada has long dominated the game, winning nine gold medals for men's hockey since 1920 — including consecutive wins in 2010 and 2014.

This will mark the first time NHLers won't participate in nearly 20 years.

NHLers have been playing so long that even some of the league's biggest stars haven't been alive in a time without it, like Toronto Maple Leafs rookie Auston Matthews, who was born in 1997.

Matthews stayed out of the debate, telling TSN it's "not really the focus right now."

'Extraordinarily disappointed'

Some players also didn't voice any opinions.

Kitchener's Mark Scheifele, who plays for the Winnipeg Jets, retweeted his girlfriend Dara Howell, who said it was a disappointing decision.


And Howell would know — the freestyle skier won gold for Canada in 2014.

Canadian Marc-Édouard Vlasic, who played for Team Canada in 2014, didn't say much, instead simply tweeting an image of the 2018 Olympic logo.


The players' association didn't mince words, saying it is "extraordinarily disappointed."

"Any sort of inconvenience the Olympics may cause to next season's schedule is a small price to pay compared to the opportunity to showcase our game and our greatest players on this enormous international stage … NHL players are patriotic and they do not take this lightly."


The International Ice Hockey Federation, which had negotiated to pay for players' travel and insurance, said it's "sad news for hockey fans."

"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," said IIHF president René Fasel.

Could any NHLers still go?

The NHL said the matter is "officially closed," but it's still unclear how it could play out with individual players.

Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin, who plays for Russia in international hockey, has repeatedly said he'd play in the 2018 Games regardless of what the NHL decides.

And this could be a golden opportunity for players who don't get as much attention, with at least one player volunteering himself.

"Don't be shy to throw my name on the list for Team Canada," tweeted Wojtek Wolski, a dual Canadian-Polish citizen. The former NHLer now plays for the Metallurg Magnitogorsk team in Russia.