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IIHF chief blasts NHL’s decision to opt out of 2018 Olympics as ‘attempt to rob fans’

The NHL announced on Monday that it decided against altering its schedule for the 2017-2018 season

MOSCOW, April 4. /TASS/. The National Hockey League (NHL) is robbing fans of the right to see the best global competitions after the US-based league officially announced its decision to pull its players out of the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea’s PyeongChang, the world’s ice hockey chief announced on Tuesday.

The NHL announced on Monday that it decided against altering its schedule for the 2017-2018 season, meaning that international players bound by contracts with NHL clubs would not be able to leave next year to join their national teams to play at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games, which are scheduled to take place in South Korea’s PyeongChang next year on February 9-25.

Rene Fasel, the president of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) said the world’s federation was "deeply disappointed" to hear about the NHL’s decision.

"While we respect the NHL’s reasons for not taking part, there is no hiding the fact that this is a decision that robs ice hockey fans of the world's greatest best-on-best international ice hockey competition, and our sport of a truly global platform that has been in place since 1998," Fasel was quoted as saying in a statement on the official IIHF website.

"At the end of the day, ice hockey loses here," Fasel said adding that the IIHF would not give up at this point since "We have to remember that some of the greatest Olympic moments didn’t involve NHL players at all."

"We will move forward and continue preparations for PyeongChang. We still have the task to promote and build our game in Asia, and we will work hard towards this," IIHF President Fasel said.

The IIHF has been in intensive talks with the NHL regarding the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics since last year, particularly after the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) decision against covering costs, which included insurance and travel fees for NHL players.

In its statement on Monday night, the NHL officially stated that: "We have previously made clear that while the overwhelming majority of our clubs are adamantly opposed to disrupting the 2017-18 NHL season for purposes of accommodating Olympic participation by some NHL players, we were open to hearing from any of the other parties who might have an interest in the issue (e.g., the IOC, the IIHF, the NHLPA, etc.) as to reasons the Board of Governors might be interested in re-evaluating their strongly held views on the subject."

"A number of months have now passed and no meaningful dialogue has materialized," the statement said. "As a result, and in an effort to create clarity among conflicting reports and erroneous speculation, this will confirm our intention to proceed with finalizing our 2017-18 regular season schedule without any break to accommodate the Olympic Winter Games. We now consider the matter officially closed."

The National Hockey League Players’ Association came up later with a statement criticizing the NHL’s decision saying that the league’s players were "extraordinarily disappointed and adamantly disagree with the NHL's shortsighted decision to not continue our participation in the Olympics."

"Any sort of inconvenience the Olympics may cause to next season's schedule is a small price to pay compared to the opportunity to showcase our game and our greatest players on this enormous international stage," the statement from the NHL Players’ Association said.

The association criticized the NHL’s authorities for not only prohibiting its players for playing on the international arena, but for building obstacles for the game of ice hockey on the whole.

"The NHL may believe it is penalizing the IOC or the players, or both, for not giving the owners some meaningful concessions in order to induce them to agree to go to PyeongChang," the statement said. "Instead this impedes the growth of our great game by walking away from an opportunity to reach sports fans worldwide."