International Olympic Committee senior member Dick Pound is the latest to chime in on the NHL’s decision to skip the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang.
Pound was critical of the NHL in a special Montreal Gazette op-ed column posted Thursday.
In it, Pound laid out the reasons why he feels it’s a mistake on the NHL’s part to skip the Games. During negotiations, the NHL expressed interest in being compensated monetarily for sending its players overseas. While Pound understands their point of view, he added that he believes the NHL has a responsibility to help grow the game of hockey internationally—the Olympics being the perfect opportunity to do so.
“It is not sufficient for the NHL to be content with plucking the low-hanging financial fruit, but to fail to invest in the future of the game,” he wrote. “The second issue is the NHL’s decision to actively prohibit individual players, who want to represent their countries at the Olympic Games, from doing so.
“Aside from being heavy-handed and an abuse of its economic power, it is disrespectful to the rights and dreams of those players.”
Alex Ovechkin has said he plans on getting permission to represent Russia at the Games and Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis said back in December he would support his superstar. It’s unclear at this time whether or not the NHL would intervene or what exactly would happen if, hypothetically, an owner gave a player the green light to leave his NHL team for two weeks to participate in the Olympics.
Pound also thinks—as many do—that since the decision didn’t sit well with many players it could result in more difficult negotiations next time the league and the NHLPA have to come to terms on a new CBA.
“While I can see that it might be legitimate to try to discourage such participation, I believe it is (among other things) bad business to forbid or prevent such individual choices,” Pound said. “Again, one does not have to be much of a prophet to predict that the NHL Players’ Association will exact a significant price for the NHL’s intransigence regarding the players when the next collective bargaining agreement discussions begin. That, too, is bad business for the NHL—all of its own making.”