Are NHL players playing in the Olympics this year? Here’s why hockey seems so different

Ice hockey is one of the most popular Winter Olympic sports to watch, and if you caught the U.S. men’s hockey game earlier today, you might have noticed something different — if not a little disappointing — on the ice. There aren’t any NHL players playing in the Olympics this year.

After five Olympic appearances, the NHL chose not to participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics. Which means some of the world’s greatest hockey players, including Sidney Crosby, Auston Matthews, and Alex Ovechkin, aren’t vying for gold for their respective countries.

There are a few reasons behind the NHL’s decision to pull its hockey players from the Games.

Reason one: money. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) previously covered the costs incurred by NHL athletes, including travel, insurance, and accommodations, but refused to continue to do so for 2018.

Also, the NHL usually takes a three-week break to accommodate those players who are participating in the Games, which is costly, and not to mention drags out the hockey season.

Perhaps the biggest — and most sound — reason is the NHL’s concern that its top players who go to the Olympics in the middle of the NHL season might get injured, which could affect the hockey season (like who brings home the Stanley Cup).

As for what the players think? Well, you’re not the only one disappointed about not seeing your fave hockey stars play in South Korea. The National Hockey League Players’ Association released a statement in April 2017:

"The players are extraordinarily disappointed and adamantly disagree with the NHL’s shortsighted decision not to continue our participation in the Olympics," the statement read. "Any sort of inconvenience the Olympics may cause to next season’s schedule is a small price to pay compared to the opportunity to showcase our game and our greatest players on this enormous international stage."

As frustrating as it may be that we can’t watch Crosby face off against Ovechkin, this is a good time to remind ourselves that NHL players didn’t always play at the Olympics. In fact, the “miracle on ice” phenomenon at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York, in which the U.S. team played and beat the defending gold medalists, the Soviet Union, was made up of college all-stars. (The movie starring Kurt Russell and Eddie Cahill is a must-see for hockey fans, btw.)

And side note: The women’s hockey teams have never been made up of NHL players, and they continue to kill it at every single Olympic Games. So…