Can NHL Players Participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics?

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The National Hockey League has announced that it will not allow players to participate in the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games. A total of 706 NHL players have participated in the past five Olympic Winter Games.

NHL and the Olympics: the History
In March 1995, NFL officials reached an agreement with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to allow NFL players to participate in the Winter Olympic Games for the first time in the 1998 Games in Nagano, Japan. This agreement was reached after NHL officials noted that NBA players’ participation in the 1992 Summer Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain boosted the NBA’s popularity worldwide.

NHL players went on to participate in the Winter Games in 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014. On each of these years, the NHL schedule was modified to give players time to travel to and participate in the Olympic Games. The IOC covered travel expenses, insurance, and accommodations for NFL players competing in the Olympics.

2018 PyeongChang Olympics
On Apr. 3, 2017 the NHL announced that its players would not participate in the upcoming 2018 Winter Games. This decision was announced following several years of tension between the NHL and the IOC regarding the cost of sending NHL players to the Games. Prior to the announcement, the IOC had announced that it would no longer be covering the cost of insurance, accommodations and travel for NHL players attending the Games.

Despite an offer from the International Ice Hockey Federation to pay up to $20 million to cover the players’ expenses, the NHL declined to send players to the Games, citing several other concerns, such as the lengthy break in the schedule caused by the Olympics and injuries sustained by players at the Games. The NHL claimed that injuries suffered at the Games had unfairly affected the outcome of the Stanley Cup finals, and that the inconvenience caused by the long break in the schedule was too great to justify participation in the Games.

The Players’ Response
Following the announcement, the National Hockey League Players’ Association released a statement expressing their disapproval of the decision, and reiterating that it did not represent the opinion of the players. Multiple NHL players have come out against the decision, and expressed their desire to have an opportunity to compete on the U.S. team.