NHLers at Olympics 'beyond the point of return': Melnyk
By Bruce Garrioch, Ottawa Sun
First posted: Monday, August 07, 2017 03:59 PM EDT | Updated: Monday, August 07, 2017 04:09 PM EDT
There’s no secret plan for NHL players and next year's Winter Games.
While there has been speculation the league has a schedule in its back pocket to attend the PyeongChang Olympics in February just in case the International Olympic Committee has a change of heart to try to entice players to go, Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk has stated that’s not going to be the case.
“As far as any chance of anything, I do know, it’s a done deal. We’re finished. It’s beyond the point of return because we have our schedule,” Melnyk told The Naz and Wally Show Sunday morning on Zoomer Radio in Toronto. “And, now, everybody has been working very hard for the last month to (get ready).
“The schedule is set. The dates are set. All of our fan appreciation days are set. For us, especially, we’re going to Sweden and that’s set. We’re going to have an outdoor game. You can’t move that schedule anymore. There’s 31 teams that are planning things and have planned things. We’re way, way beyond anything to do with 2018. That’s just not going to happen.
“You asked me if there’s any way of fixing this or doing something with this? You can’t for this coming season. Absolutely not. It’s August. We start training camp in a month. People start coming in and then we start full play in early October. It’s actually technically impossible to do. Think of the television that’s all set. There’s a lot of things that have been set in motion that are pretty much irreversible.”
Dick Pound, an IOC member from Montreal, wrote a first-person column for the Montreal Gazette last week that criticized the league’s decision not to attend. He also doesn’t like the fact that individual players won’t be given the right to go if they want.
“He works for them and he gets paid by them and it’s his job to promote the fact that people should participate in the Olympics,” Melnyk said.
Melnyk noted Pound should also be promoting better funding for amateur athletes in Canada because individual athletes are having to dig into their own pockets to compete. Melnyk has been a supporter of Olympic athletes and understands the difficulties for many amateur athletes to make ends meet.
“I suggest one of the things that (Pound) focuses on is not the NHL — focus on how do you fund these poor amateur athletes that aren’t rich kids,” Melnyk added.
Yes, there has been talk that the Washington Capitals will allow winger Alex Ovechkin to attend to play with Russia, but if Ottawa captain Erik Karlsson wanted to go suit up for Sweden, Melnyk doesn’t believe that would be possible.
It’s believed the league will have a blanket policy on the subject before the season.
“If (Karlsson) came to me it would simply be a referral to the NHL offices,” Melnyk said. “They took over. I don’t have to make a decision. The decision was made by them. He has to deal with whatever those meetings if they occur.”
Melnyk said the Olympics should be a stage for amateur players.
“This should be amateur as it always was intended from the beginning of time,” he added. “It’s an amateur competition. Keep it that way. Now you’ve got boxing matches. You’ve got professionals, making multi-million dollars.”
The concern for Melnyk, naturally, is injury to the likes of Karlsson or any other star player. The Senators lost goalie Dominik Hasek in 2006 with a groin injury while playing for the Czech Republic in Turin, and he never returned to the club’s net.
“That was our year to win a Stanley Cup. We had all the momentum to win a Stanley Cup or, at the very least, get into the Stanley Cup final. We were there,” Melnyk said. “He wanted to go play for the Czech Republic. We let him go.
“The first game he left and he doesn’t play another game for us. We begged him to (play). (Daniel) Alfredsson and I begged him to, the coaches begged him, he said he wouldn’t do it and couldn’t do it, he had a groin injury and that was the end of Dominik Hasek (in Ottawa).”
NHLers at Olympics 'beyond the point of return': Melnyk | OLYMPICS | Hockey | Sp