Bryanna McDermott| Asst. Photo Editor
Gary Bettman, the commissioner of the National Hockey League, has been looking for a way to prevent his players from competing in the Winter Olympics for years, and he may have just figured out how with his restoration of the World Cup of Hockey.
The international tournament will feature six of the top hockey countries, along with two hybrid teams. Team North America, consisting of Canadian and American players under 23-years old, and Team Europe will join Canada, the United States, Sweden, Russia, Finland and the Czech Republic.
While hockey fans are excited to see their favorite players compete against each other, the NHL’s hidden agenda may cause some viewers to tune out.
Competing in the Winter Olympics costs Bettman a lot of money. Now, the World Cup is being deemed by some as “Bettman’s Olympics,” considering the Commissioner has been quite vocal about his desire to keep NHL players away from the Olympic Games.
When it comes to allowing its players to compete in the Olympic Games, the NHL must shorten its season, including shutting down the league in February for three whole weeks.
That is three weeks of virtually no revenue: no games, no ticket sales and a decrease in merchandise sold.
In the eyes of the NHL, the World Cup is a win-win situation. The fans get to watch international hockey and the league not only saves money, it makes money —since the NHL and NHLPA run the tournament.
But the rebirth of the World Cup cannot compete with the luster of the Winter Olympics. The Winter Games have brought fans impeccable moments that would never have happened without the NHL’s participation in the Olympics.
Imagine if Sidney Crosby didn’t score the Golden Goal on home soil in Canada or if the world never got to see T.J. Oshie’s phenomenal shootout performance in Sochi.
These are moments that can define a player’s entire career.
While the World Cup will still have the best-of-the-best from around the world competing, it’s not going to give the sport as much of a spotlight.
Only die-hard hockey fans are going to tune-in to see the World Cup, but the Olympics have become such a cultural norm that even non-sports fans watch the games just to root on their home country.
The NHL claimed it would determine whether or not it would send players to South Korea in six months.
Perhaps Bettman is waiting to see how his own Olympics pan out this September before making any promises.