It has been known for a while that the NHL will not be sending their athletes to compete for their country at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang starting in February. In September, the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) stated that there was no longer any chance of a late deal with the National Hockey League to send its players to the Olympics.
In April, the league decided not to send its players because they didn’t want to have to stop the league mid-season. According to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), the NHL had been a willing participant in the Winter Olympics since the 1998 games in Japan; however, now their decision will ultimately affect every major ice hockey nation.
Some players have had a hard time letting go of the idea of heading to South Korea in February. Washington Capitals winger and captain Alexander Ovechkin stated that he planned on going no matter what the consequences were. However, in September, Ovechkin had to accept the fact that he was not going to participate in the games and so did many others. This change will ultimately affect the United States and Canada the most, simply because they both have been typically made up exclusively of NHL players.
Now, who will take the place of these NHL superstars this February? Many countries are looking at players overseas to try to fill their empty roster spots. The reigning champs, Canada, will be without Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby and Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price, just to name a few superstars. Team Canada is looking at Ben Scrivens, who now plays in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) in Russia, along with other former NHL standouts.
The U. S. will have to make do with minor leaguers, college players and some ex-NHL players to fill their rosters. Fortunately, according to CTV Sportsnet, the KHL is taking a 33-day break for the Winter Olympics while the NHL plays on. It’s safe to say that there might be a lot of “no-name” players participating this year, but it could be fun to get to see some new talent.
As for U.S. hockey, there has been some talk about NCAA players attending the Olympic games. However, according to an article from the SB Nation College Hockey website, U.S. Hockey has said they won’t be picking players who also played in the World Juniors for the Olympics. So, scratch anyone from 1998 and more recent years attending.
So, how will these American players be picked? According to U.S. National , the first step toward narrowing down the player pool will come at the Deutschland Cup, which will take place Nov. 10-12 in Germany. This will be the only pre-Olympic competition for the U. S. and the team will mainly be made up of players from European leagues.
We all can remember the movie “Miracle” and how all of those college guys made the U. S. proud by defeating the Soviet Union and eventually going on to win gold at the 1980 Olympics. Mike Eruzione and Jim Craig are legends now, but who were they before they got the opportunity to represent their country? This Olympics may turn out similarly, and it will be just as exciting to see what talent emerges.