LOS ANGELES – Jonathan Toews badly wants an opportunity to win a third Olympic gold medal.
In fact, the Chicago Blackhawks captain and Team Canada stalwart believes the NHL would be “misrepresenting our sport on a pretty huge scale” if it didn’t permit players to attend the Games next year in Pyeonchang, South Korea.
“I don’t think it’s just about Canadians wanting to go to the Olympics,” Toews said Sunday after the NHL all-star game. “Every guy at the NHL level wants to represent their country at that level. If you ask me, I don’t think you can really compare it to the World Cup or the world championships.
“The Olympics are a whole other thing.”
Toews played a major role in Canada’s victories at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver and the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia. He was also part of the team that won the World Cup in September.
The NHL has shown a reluctance to send its players to a sixth straight Games ever since the International Olympic Committee decided to stop covering the insurance and travel costs of the players.
The International Ice Hockey Federation has since come up with a plan to fund those expenses, according to president Rene Fasel, but NHL owners took a dim view of the IOC’s decision.
“I think it caused a number of clubs to say, ‘Well, wait a minute, if that’s how they value our participation, why are we knocking ourselves out,’” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said Saturday. “I think when the IOC said, ‘You know what, we don’t think it’s worth it, we’re not going to pay.’ I think that may have opened a whole can of worms.”
There is, however, no debate among the players. They want the chance to represent their country on the biggest stage in sports, and in the mind of Toews, the NHL has a responsibility to do its part to ensure the quality of hockey is as good as possible.
“Quite frankly, I think to turn on the Olympics next year and watch hockey teams or the players representing their countries, if it’s not the best in the world, I don’t know,” said Toews. “I don’t know. I just feel like we’re misrepresenting our sport on a pretty huge scale and a pretty huge level. A lot of the talk has been it’s the players pushing for it, and it’s the players that are interested and want to go.
“I think the players do want to go, but I think it should be of interest to the players and the league. I think the NHL should be in the Olympics.”