NEWARK, N.J. -- A showdown is looming between commissioner Gary Bettman and the NHL's players over the league's non-participation in the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea.
On Monday, Bettman laid out his reasons (break in the schedule, time difference, financial gain, etc.) in announcing that the league will bypass the PyeongChang Winter Games.
Ironically, the league intends to go to China in 2022 because of that country's vast marketing potential. Yet the IOC has already stated that participation is arbitrary. You miss one Olympics, don't expect to attend another.
A day after the NHL's announcement, to no one's surprise, Alex Ovechkin said that regardless of what the owners do as a league, he and other Russian players intend to play for Team Russia.
"Yeah, I didn't change my mind and I won't," Ovechkin told reporters on Tuesday after the morning skate at Air Canada Centre.
"Because it's my country," Ovechkin said. "I think everybody wants to play there. It's the biggest opportunity in your life to play in the Olympic Games. So, I don't know, somebody [is] going to tell me, 'Don't go,' I don't care, I just go."
Canadiens goalie Carey Price told the CBC: "I feel it's very disappointing. I feel like we're shortchanging some of the younger players of that opportunity. It's tough to swallow for some of those kids for sure."
Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist tweeted:
Disappointing news, @NHL won't be part of the Olympics 2018. A huge opportunity to market the game at the biggest stage is wasted..— Henrik Lundqvist (@HLundqvist30) April 3, 2017
Flyers forward Jakub Voracek wants to play for the Czech Republic and sounded torn over what decision he'll make.
Is this the end, or is this more like a ploy from Bettman to get something from the players, like an extension of the current CBA?
"I don't know," Voracek replied. "I'm still hoping that somehow we'll find a way to go there. You can see every single player wants to go. But we really don't have the power."
Voracek isn't sure he would defy the league and attend, either. He said he feels loyalty to the Flyers who pay his salary.
"Tough question," he replied. "Ovechkin is a three-time Hart Trophy winner. He has a little different position than me here in Philly. It's something as a player, you consider it. But in the end, it's hard to say whether I would go over. I don't know the answer.
"If you don't go, you feel like an a------ for the Czechs. If you go, you feel like an a------ to the guys here and toward the organization. This is a no-win situation in this case, for sure."
The NHLPA clearly wants the players going to every Olympics. Part of the union's statement read:
"The players are 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."