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Television contracts may have impacted possible NHL’s absence at 2018 Olympics

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On Monday it was reported throughout the world that the National Hockey League will not be going to the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang. This will be the first time since the 1994 Olympic Winter Games in Lillehammer that the NHL’s best will not attend. However, it should be noted that Olympic hockey tournament in Norway was fantastic and determined with an awesome shootout between Sweden and Canada to decide the gold medal.

There is no question that all parties involved are to blame for the NHL’s players absence. The National Hockey League Players’ Association, the NHL, the International Ice Hockey Federation and International Olympic Committee need to share the blame for not coming to an agreement that was best for the game.

The NHL cannot be totally blamed. They have said for months that they wanted something a little extra this time, which is completely understandable when you consider the fact that there is a time difference of 13 hours from the Eastern time zone to Pyeongchang and key games will be played in the middle of the night. They wanted to extend their contract with the NHLPA with the players going to Pyeongchang in return, which was denied. They wanted top sponsor status on the Olympic stage, but seemed not to come to terms with the IOC. The IIHF meanwhile seemed to be caught in an awkward position in the middle, and ultimately seemed to lack the power to have a major influence in the negotiations.

The NHL’s absence in 2018, however, could possibly be attributed to the fact that the NHL has a more lucrative television contract with Sportsnet in Canada than NBC in the United States. The NHL’s contract with Sportsnet is $433 million more annually on average than the NHL’s annual contract with NBC. The fact that Sportsnet is not the primary Olympic rights holders in Canada even though there probably will be some Olympic coverage on their network, had a possible impact in the grand scheme of things. The NHL’s deal with the NBC is through 2020-21, and there were reports that the NHL attempted to extend its contract with NBC for the NHL going to Pyeongchang, but was once again rejected.

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