MOSCOW, September 1. /TASS/. Players of the US-based National Hockey League (NHL) should not be a part of the Olympic Games, Phil Esposito, a former president and general manager of NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning club, told TASS.
Olympic ice hockey tournaments were held until 1998 without NHL players’ participation due to the requested status of amateurs. However, NHL players participated in the Olympic editions of 1998, 2022, 2006, 2010 and 2014. NHL seasons were temporarily put on hold these years upon a permission of the league, clubs’ owners and the players’ union trade.
"I’m not the fan of the Olympics… I don’t believe in closing your business down and giving your product for nothing. I just don’t believe in it," Esposito said, speaking in an interview with TASS.
"Basketball plays there in the Olympics in the summer time. There is no reason why hockey could not do that in September, like we did that with the Super Series in 1972 or with the World Cups. Olympics should be for amateurs and amateurs only," he said.
Canada’s legendary ice hockey forward also said he was against the participation of NHL players in the 1998 Olympics, when he stood at the helm of NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning.
"I voted against it in 1998, when it first started, because I was doing the Lightning then, and I never changed my mind about it since then," Esposito said.
"If they are getting paid by somebody under the table, then that’s a different story. They need to make a living too. But I don’t believe in guys making nine, ten million dollars a year just leaving their jobs and going overseas to play in the Olympics. I do not believe in that," he added.
The full text of the interview is available via a link.