Morrison: Is this the NHL’s last Olympics?

Hans Deryk/Reuters

Players and fans love the games. Owners don’t. So soak up Sochi, because the NHL wants to stay away from South Korea.

As you would expect in this country, no sooner had all the guessing ended on who would make Team Canada than the second-guessing began. In fairness, that really shouldn’t start until the squad has its first hiccup in Sochi.

Until then, Steve Yzerman and his management team have done their job well. There really weren’t any huge surprises when Yzerman revealed his 25-man roster. There were decisions that can be debated, for sure, but none that can be deemed bad. At least not now.

The luxury and the curse for Canada’s executives is that they could easily assemble two strong rosters and that they have more tough decisions to make than any of the other countries. And as for this business about Olympic snubs, there was no such thing. The likes of Martin St. Louis, Logan Couture and Eric Staal are entitled to be upset because they weren’t selected. It speaks volumes about their compete levels and pride that they were disappointed. These are guys, after all, who weren’t often left off teams.

But in this case, they weren’t snubbed—snubbing by definition suggests they were ignored or shown disdain. They simply weren’t selected. That they were part of the summer orientation camp and part of the continuous debates among Yzerman and his management group over the final roster means they were in various degrees of serious consideration.

For whatever reason, whether it was speed, lack of versatility or not fitting into a certain depth spot on the roster, they weren’t picked. But they definitely weren’t snubbed.

If you want to see a snub, stay tuned for a few years from now, because it is more than likely that the NHL will issue an Olympic snub of the highest order—not sending their players to the next Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. It simply makes no sense for the league. It was a tough enough decision to send them to Sochi, nine time zones away from the eastern NHL cities, meaning no prime-time exposure, but there was an enhanced working agreement with the IOC and IIHF. Also, there was a feeling that, because so many Russians play in the NHL, it was the right thing to do this time, especially when Alex Ovechkin announced he would be going regardless. Who needed the headache of the reigning MVP walking out for a fortnight?

Apart from the quality of the competition, there simply isn’t a compelling reason for the NHL and its players to be part of the 2018 Games. There are already many NHL owners who don’t see the logic in shutting down the league and their businesses for a couple of weeks in mid-season, when they really don’t benefit from anything more than the exposure. The owners know it hasn’t really put a dime in their pockets.

What does make sense, and cents, is resurrecting their own out-of-season international spectacle, the World Cup of Hockey, which arrives in the fall of 2015—that is something the NHL can control and profit from.

The players enjoy the Olympic experience, hence the disappointment of those who didn’t make it, but it will be tough convincing the guys who pay their salaries that they should close their doors in four years time.

So enjoy watching the NHLers in these Olympics, because chances are you won’t be seeing them at the Games again anytime soon—and there are few on the NHL side of things who will be second-guessing that decision.

This story originally appeared in Sportsnet magazine. Subscribe here.

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