Players Respond To NHL's Decision To Pass On 2018 Winter Olympics

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NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman confirmed Monday the league's players would not be participating in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

"A number of months have now passed, and no meaningful dialogue has materialized," the NHL said in its statement.

Over that time, NHL players, including Alex Ovechkin, Erik Karlsson and Henrik Lundqvist, have been vocal about wanting to play for their home countries.

Karlsson, a two-time Norris Trophy winner as the league's best defenseman, didn't hold back when asked about the decision. 

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The opening ceremony is a little more than 10 months away, and there remains some optimism on NHL participation.

"Next year's schedule is not out yet," Ovechkin said in an interview Tuesday. "So if the schedule is not going to the Olympic Games, then you can see they don't bluff."

The Washington Capitals superstar has held firm to his notion he will play for Russia, no matter what the NHL says. Dating back to last year, Washington owner Ted Leonsis has supported Ovechkin's decision.

"He knows I have his back on this one. If this is what's so important to him and he wants to go to the Olympics, he should be able to do that," Leonsis told ESPN in December.

NHL In Asia

The NHL recently announced that the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks would play a series of preseason games in Beijing and Shanghai.

While the NHL hasn't mentioned it publicly, there is belief that South Korea's location -- neighboring the dictatorship of North Korea -- is a concern in regard to player safety and security during the Games.

The IOC has already stated the NHL will not be allowed to pick and choose its Olympic participation and that the league will not be welcomed back for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

Bettman has said the preseason games are a long-term plan to grow the NHL market in China and that he's not looking past Pyeongchang.

One can't help but notice the contradicting viewpoints. The NHL wants to grow in the Asian market while skipping the Olympics, the biggest stage in the world, which takes place in an Asian country less than a year from now.

Player Reactions

Players from around the league have been increasingly outspoken since the NHL's announcement.

Los Angeles Kings captain Anze Kopitar, who will be playing in the Beijing and Shanghai games during the preseason, expressed his disappointment after his home country of Slovenia qualified for the Olympics in 2014.

"That is the biggest sporting event in the world, and again, being able to grow the game, we should be there and grow it that way," Kopitar told Jon Rosen of L.A. Kings Insider.

In 2014, notable NHL players such as Henrik Zetterberg, Steven Stamkos, and Mikko Koivu dealt with injuries that forced them out of playing for their homelands.

"I'm not going to be able to go anymore," Koivu, 34, said Tuesday. "It's the next two that they said we're not taking part in; that's it for me. It's very disappointing news."

NHL leading scorer Connor McDavid was also disappointed in knowing he wouldn't be able to represent Canada in 2018.

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League Implications

In a summer that holds a much-anticipated expansion draft, players looking toward Olympic participation could opt to play elsewhere during the 2017-18 season.

Igor Esmantovich, president of CSKA Moscow of the KHL, has already stated he will make every effort at bringing Russian players back to the team this offseason with Olympic participation in mind.

Esmantovich was specific, naming Toronto Maple Leafs defensemen Alexey Marchenko and Nikita Zaitsev as well as Colorado Avalanche forward Mikhail Grigorenko and Philadelphia Flyers forward Roman Lyubimov.

Each of the four players are on expiring NHL contracts; however, there is a rumor of Zaitsev closing in on a seven-year deal with Toronto.

In recent years, notable players have been forced out of the game as teams look to trim salary and bring youth through the system. This could have a dramatic effect on players choosing to move overseas with an eye on competing for their respective country in Pyeongchang.

The Maples Leafs' Leo Komarov already took this route three years ago. He left the organization to play professionally in his native Finland, knowing he would see more playing time as he made an attempt to earn a spot for Team Finland, which he ultimately did.

Related: Finland The 2018 Favorite If NHL Skips Olympics

Don't be surprised to find fringe players leaving the league and choosing Olympic participation over the NHL.

Have a question or a comment for Jacob Messing? You can find him on Twitter @JMessing23.

North Korea, South Korea Form Single Olympic Women's Hockey Team

© Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports Olympic Preview: U.S. Olympic Team Media Summit

Ahead of next month's Winter Games in Pyeongchang, rivals North and South Korea will form a joint Olympic team marching under a single "unification flag," according to the Associated Press. 

Syracuse Hoping To Use CHA Rival Penn State As Second-Half Spark

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Stuck in the middle of the College Hockey America (CHA) standings, the Syracuse Orange are hoping their second series with the Penn State Nittany Lions sparks a turnaround from their current rough patch. This time they travel to University Park, Pennsylvania.

Sweet Six: No. 1 Badgers Blank Mavericks 6-0

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MADISON, Wis. — Thanks to the efforts of a balanced Badger offense, the No. 1 Wisconsin women’s hockey team opened the new year with a 6-0 victory over Minnesota State Saturday afternoon at LaBahn Arena.

Wisconsin Badgers Drop Defensive Battle To Michigan State

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No. 6/7 Buckeyes Fall to No. 13 Nittany Lions, 5-2

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Wisconsin's Kristen Campbell Named WCHA Goaltender Of The Month

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MADISON, Wis. – Wisconsin women’s hockey goaltender Kristen Campbell has been named the WCHA Goaltender of the Month for the third-consecutive month, the league announced Wednesday.

'Miracle On Ice' Reunion For Wisconsin, Minnesota State Coaches

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You could say that Mark Johnson, head coach of the Wisconsin Badgers, and John Harrington, skipper of the Minnesota State Mavericks, know each other pretty well — and their past is definitely apropos: the two were teammates on the Miracle on Ice team which shocked the world and won gold in the 1980 Olympics.

Arizona State, MVP Brinson Pasichnuk Claim Ice Vegas Title

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The Arizona State Sun Devils jumped out to an early lead against the Michigan Tech Huskies on their way to claiming the inaugural Ice Vegas Invitational championship.

NMU Hands No. 13 Boston College Second Straight Loss

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The Northern Michigan Wildcats defeated the Boston College Eagles 4-3 in a shootout Saturday to claim third place at the inaugural Ice Vegas Invitational.

Philip Beaulieu recorded a goal and two assists, powering the Wildcats over the Eagles, who will likely find themselves dropping form their current No. 13 rank after an 0-2 showing in Las Vegas.

Arizona State's 7-Goal Barrage Downs Northern Michigan

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A few hours after Michigan Tech used a three-goal first period to best Boston College, the Arizona State Sun Devils did the same against Northern Michigan.

But those three points would turn out to be just a fraction of their point total from the first day of the inaugural Ice Vegas Invitational, where physicality and speed led the way.

The Sun Devils played in front of what was virtually a home crowd as they downed the Wildcats, 7-3, on Friday night.