Due to several different reasons, including financial considerations, the NHL has stated that the 2014 Winter Olympics being held in Sochi, Russia may be the last one that it participates in. In addition, though it is unlikely, there is a small possibility that it may not participate in next month’s Games as well.
Bill Daly, the deputy commissioner for the NHL, stated in an Associated Press interview that he had complete confidence in the security measures being taken in Russia; however, if a major breach in security did occur, it might prevent NHL players from making the trip to Sochi.
There have been concerns about possible terrorist attacks being carried out at the Olympic Winter Games, which are scheduled to occur between February 7 and 23. There have been three suicide bombings which have taken place since October 15, 2013. These bombings killed over 30 people in Volograd, a city about 500 miles away from Sochi. In addition, there have been unconfirmed media reports of possible female “black widow” suicide bombers in Sochi.
Sochi, the site of the 2014 Olympics, is about 300 miles away from the North Caucasus region. This area is a center for Islamist extremist activity and insurgents have made threats on the Olympic Games for quite awhile now.
Reports indicate that Russia has pulled together what is probably the largest security operation for an Olympics ever, with over 50,000 soldiers and policemen manning the event.
Last week, the U.S. Olympic Committee cautioned Americans athletes against wearing Team USA gear outside the Olympic compound for fear that it might put them at risk.
Although security concerns are a factor which could potentially prevent the NHL from attending the 2014 Games, business concerns are the motivating factor which may get in the way of future Olympics attendance. League officials have expressed skepticism about whether it’s a good idea to take a two-week break mid-season to attend the 2018 event being held in South Korea. Although the NHL had 150 players chosen to play in February, due to the Olympics, it will not have any games going on from February 9 through 24. This 16-day time period, right between the Super Bowl and the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament is a time during which the NHL could have been taking advantage of decreased competition for the money of casual fans.
Players who were interviewed by the Daily News told the newspaper that they are against future participation in the Olympics because it forces the NHL to fit its play schedule into fewer days, taking away from between-game breaks for the players. These players stated that they would prefer to play in other events, such as the World Cup of Hockey, since it would not create scheduling conflicts with their regular season.
The NHL appears to be in favor of such a schedule as well, with Daly telling the AP that, “[a] World Cup should clearly play a part in that.”
The NHL will be making its final decision about whether to participate in any future Olympics once Sochi is out of the way.
By Nancy Schimelpfening