The second news broke that Pyeongchang, South Korea had been awarded the 2018 Winter Olympics, hockey fans’ Twitter feeds exploded with a plethora of lousy Jim Paek jokes (what, no respect for Richard Park?). Today’s news means that world hockey power South Korea will automatically qualify for both the men’s and women’s tournaments. Whether or not NHL players will be partaking in the event is a whole other issue, one that’s sure to be a hot topic for the next couple of years.
With Sochi, Russia playing host to the 2014 games and Pyeongchang on deck for the following Winter games, North American television networks and players’ travel schedules will be among the foremost debated topics in hockey circles. Back-to-back Olympics across the pond probably isn’t what Gary Bettman would consider a dream scenario worth interrupting the NHL schedule for. The challenges of the time zone differences means television networks will be left without the prime time drawing power of popular events like hockey.
Since the inclusion of NHL players in the Winter Olympics was introduced in 1998, both Canada and the United States have struggled when the games were held across the pond. Compared to the 19-4-2 combined record of Canada and America in games held on North American soil (Salt Lake City and Vancouver), the two nations’ performance on the other side of the world have been pretty lousy. In the games held in Nagano, Japan and Torino, Italy – Canada and America have combined for a sub-par 9-12-1 record.
Bettman will be sure to dance around questions regarding the NHL’s participation in the next two Olympic Games until it’s time to ultimately make the decision. What do you say, will the NHL be sending its players to the 2018 Games in South Korea?