By Dan Bernstein–
CBSChicago.com senior columnist
(CBS) It would be too simple for the NHL to just say what it means, be correct and be done with it.
No, the league that can’t seem to get out of its own way was at it again Monday, using a comically byzantine statement to tell the world that it wouldn’t allow its players a break from their regular season to compete for their respective countries in the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.
In passive-aggressive fashion, the densely worded and obviously over-lawyered remarks seemed to blame the IOC, NHLPA and IIHF for their decision, alleging that the other entities hadn’t engaged in sufficiently substantive negotiations that could have incentivized the league to disrupt its schedule. In other words, they aren’t confident enough to just own the fact that the owners didn’t want the players they are paying to have either the time off or the injury risk.
That’s their unquestioned right, and all they had to do was say so. Any argument about brand-building for the NHL or the game is undermined by hard evidence, because Olympic participation hasn’t been shown to have any meaningfully lasting effect on their business.
A truer statement would have been something expressing the thought that “Our players won’t be excused to compete in the Olympics because we have no good reason to let them. We as a league and fans of our teams gain nothing from it.”