• Gary Bettman

Gary Bettman (Photo : Getty Images Sport)

The National Hockey League (NHL) commissioner Gary Bettman announced that their players will not be allowed to participate in the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Bettman lamented that the Olympic Games doesn't provide monetary benefits to the league as the IOC gets all the revenue that the league would otherwise generate, while also preventing them from showing any footage from the Olympics that could help popularize the NHL and hockey.

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While the NHL may not see a very big market in South Korea, the move will cause the NHL from a fantastic opportunity to showcase the sport to Chinese fans.

The NHL has been trying to win Chinese fans. In fact, it would hold a couple of preseason games between the Los Angeles Kings and the Vancouver Canucks in China this September in order to lure the Chinese market.

With the Winter Games to be held in Beijing, China in 2022, the Chinese fans will be more curious about hockey and the NHL.

China has been attracting local enthusiasts to hockey and laying a solid foundation for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games.

Furthermore, this decision will not please the hundreds of players. New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who is from Sweden and one of the most respected hockey players said it was disappointing that he could not play in next year's Olympics, adding that they will miss a huge opportunity to market the game. 

Rene Fasel, President of the International Ice Hockey Federation, has said that the NHL cannot pick and choose which Winter Games it attends, though that always sounded more like a bargaining chip than reality.

But in deciding to call Fasel's bluff and skip 2018, the NHL's money men seem to be prioritizing short-term gain over the potential for long-term benefits that may not be fully realized until long after they themselves are gone.