Zetterberg 'not surprised' by NHL sitting out Olympics

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Henrik Zetterberg

Detroit — The NHL says it is not going to the 2018 Winter Olympics.

The league announced Monday the matter was “officially closed” after months of speculation as to whether the NHL will shut down in February and allow its players to participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics.

The interesting item now is what about the numerous players in the league who want to participate in the best-against-best tournament with so much national pride at stake?

From the Red Wings’ perspective, players such as Henrik Zetterberg, Niklas Kronwall and Gustav Nyquist (Sweden), Tomas Tatar (Slovakia), Petr Mrazek (Czech Republic) and Justin Abdelkader (USA) are either strong possibilities or long shots to make their respective country’s teams.

Zetterberg, the Red Wings’ captain, wasn’t surprised by the NHL’s hard stance.

“I haven’t really seen the statement yet, but I’m not real surprised,” said Zetterberg, believing it was a negotiating ploy to win a concession out of the Players Association. “They probably want something from us, as always.”

Players have been unanimous in their desire to represent their countries and play in the Olympics.

“There’s no secret the players want to play for sure,” Nyquist said. “Hopefully everything will get solved. Everyone wants to play in the Olympics for sure.”

The Red Wings’ front office is not commenting on the matter, with commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly handling all comments.

The NHL has participated in the last five Olympic tournaments dating back to 1998, shutting down its season for approximately three weeks each time.

But the league saw no tangible benefits, it said, from doing so, thereby the decision to forego attending the 2018 Winter Games.

Bettman has said there’s been no dialogue with the NHL Players' Association, International Olympic Committee and International Ice Hockey Federation.

While South Korea in 2018 seems very much in jeopardy, the NHL appears very interested in attending the 2022 Olympics in Beijing — a potential gold mine for the league in terms of a new revenue stream.

But the IIHF and IOC have both hinted the NHL may not be able to participate in Beijing unless it allows its players to participate in the South Korea games.

The NHLPA came out strongly against the NHL’s decision.

In a statement, the NHLPA said it was disappointed and disagrees 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.”

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tkulfan