Gary Bettman is hands down the worst commissioner of a professional league ever. He is single handling killing the growth of the NHL. Today, was no different when he announced that the NHL players would not be participating in the winter Olympics next year in South Korea. This is the first time the NHL will not be participating in the Olympics since 1998.
This is the stupidest thing the NHL could do to themselves. I can understand how the owners do not want to disrupt the season and it means they lose money. They are missing the big picture though. The Olympics are a perfect marketing opportunity for the league. Not just the USA, but the entire world get to see their players on the ice. Sending their players means advertising their talent which means more fans which means more money in the damn owner’s pockets. Just because your sales are going to hurt one freaking, you owners can take the loss if it means a larger audience long-term.
The players overwhelming want to play in the Olympics. It gives them a sense of pride it’s something they grew up dreaming of. Players such has King Henrik himself, tweeted about how disappointed he was in the NHL’s decision. You probably don’t want to piss off your players Gary. They can easily make your life hell again and force another lockout which again makes the league and you look bad. Alex Ovechkin has already pledged he will go to the Olympics whether the league does or not. I would not be surprised if many other players vow to join him. The Olympics are supposed to feature the best in the world at each respective sport. The NHL players are the best in the world, they should be competing.
The best part is that Bettman is trying to make deals to promote the NHL in China, even scheduling a couple of preseason games there. Beijing hosts the next winter Olympics. To Bettman, the opportunity in China offers more money than South Korea would. It looks terrible on the league if they skip this Olympics but will go to the next just because the league doesn’t believe South Korea offers them enough financial opportunities. In reality, it just makes Bettman look like a slimy business man and the league look greedy. For a league trying to grow, you can’t afford a bad rep. Even if you don’t think the Olympics help the league grow globally, it does help it domestically within the US. Hockey is the major team sport in the winter Olympics. People who don’t normally watch the sport tune in, and they might just be intrigued especially if the U.S. does good.
As long as Bettman is the commissioner, the NHL is doomed.