This is a time of magic. Through our own tenacity and volume, we have the ability to will things into existence.
We can resurrect cancelled television shows. We can force major corporations to apologize for social media faux pas. We literally created a line of dialogue for Samuel L. Jackson to say in “Snakes On A Plane” and, by god, he said it.
So while the NHL has given every indication that it will not participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics – right down to the moment when Gary Bettman announced the 2018 All-Star Game would be in Tampa, and basically said “because we’re not going to the Olympics” – hope is kept alive, because hockey fans who want to see the best best-on-best tournament in existence can will it into existence, right?
There was fuel for those flames this week, when Sports Express in Russia reported that Russian NHL players believe there is “a backup schedule with an Olympic break” that exists; a contingency plan for the NHL that allows them to still participate in the 2018 Olympics even though the 2017-18 schedule has been released.
The report went on to say that the NHL is facing heavy pressure from stars like Sidney Crosby to attend the 2018 Games, which is likely music to Gary Bettman’s ears since much of this is posturing to make the Olympics a huge CBA negotiation point in a few years.
Is there an Alternate Olympic Schedule for the 2017-18 season? I asked a few league sources and got a few “I don’t knows.”
But honestly, that’s besides the point. Nothing has changed with regard to what needs to happen for the NHL to go to South Korea: For the IOC to share its wealth with the NHL, and/or for the NHLPA to cave and extend the CBA through 2025.
And that’s with the assumption that the Olympics are still actually on the table, and there’s plenty of evidence to say they’re not.
“I know that there have been a variety of comments either from Rene Fasel of the International Ice Hockey Federation or from representatives from the Players’ Association suggesting that this was still an open issue. It is not and has not been,” said Bettman in late May.
In the next week, the NHL is going to have boots on the ground in Tampa to start cutting deals for the All-Star Game. That includes a partnership with the organizers of the Gasparilla Pirate Fest, for what should be a wild drunken time in January. They’re full speed ahead on that event in ways that would indicate that they’re not expecting to move it to 2019.
We’re also starting to see the beginnings of how these national teams will be built for a non-NHL Olympics.
The AHL this week confirmed to Steve Whyno that “teams were informed they could loan players on AHL contracts to national teams for the purposes of participating in the Pyeongchang Olympics.” That’s strictly minor league free agents, and not players on NHL contracts that have been demoted.
Also, for those keeping hope alive: Don’t read too much into the radio silence from USA Hockey on this. Like the fact there hasn’t been an orientation camp announced for the 2018 national team, like there was in August 2013 for the Sochi team. That was only going to be for NHL players; for a non-NHL player team, USA Hockey is going to create a pool of up to 150 players “based on past playing history and upcoming season expectation of Olympic availability.”
They’ll be evaluated based on 2014-18 performances, rather than coming to tryouts or some such. The rosters will be set by early January 2018.
Look, it’s OK if you want to continue to look at NHL Olympic participation through delusion-colored glasses. Most likely it’s because you’re a Canadian who knows that your third string could win gold, or a Swede that knows the Canadians have to beat someone for gold, or an American that … hey wait, we have Matthews and Eichel this time?!
The IOC and NHLPA better get to [expletive] caving so the NHL can roll out that alternate schedule…
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