If the status quo doesn’t change, the NHL will likely decide in January not to send players to the 2018 Olympics, insider Bob McKenzie said on NBCSN on Wednesday night.
The NHL Board of Governors is meeting in Florida on Thursday and Friday, and the Olympics are expected to be discussed, but no decision on NHL participation in Pyeongchang is expected.
“Absent some new X-factor that comes into the equation, something that changes up the minds of the governors or other people involved in this Olympic decision, it doesn’t look like the NHL is going to South Korea,” McKenzie said. “But that decision won’t be made until probably January.”
The International Ice Hockey Federation recently met with hockey federations, which asked about a Plan B should the NHL not participate in the Olympics for the first time since 1994.
“There was no real answer, don’t worry, we’ll cross that bridge if we come to it,” McKenzie said. “There are some federations who believe that it’s going to be absolute chaos. For the very simple reason that if you think the National Hockey League doesn’t want to shut down its league, neither do a lot of the European leagues, whether it be Sweden or Finland, Czech Republic, Russia, you name it.”
Earlier this fall, the world’s second-best league — the KHL in Russia — said it planned to take its usual break and release players for the Olympics like it has done for recent Winter Games. KHL rosters for its 29 teams include double-digit Canadians and double-digit Americans, some with NHL experience.
An official from Sweden’s top league said in October that it had not decided if it will take an Olympic break and was following the discussions between the NHL and IIHF.
Finland’s top league said in October that it was planning to take a break in its season to send players to the Olympics, but a final decision had not been made.
NCAA rules allow players to leave their programs for Olympic tryouts and the Games themselves. One active NCAA player competed in the 2014 Olympics — Bowling Green’s Ralfs Freibergs, who missed two college games that season to participate in Sochi for Latvia.
“If the NHLers aren’t going, it could be the wild, wild, west,” McKenzie said. “Try and find a player anywhere to represent your country.”Follow @nzaccardi