SAN JOSE — As a parade of NHL superstars expressed their displeasure with the league’s decision Monday to not participate in the 2018 Olympics in South Korea, Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic sent out a tweet that he insists is a good summary of his opinion on the matter.
Vlasic’s tweet shows the five Olympic rings reorganized in the form of an asterisk, suggesting that next year’s tournament in Pyeongchang will be meaningless without the inclusion of the world’s top players.
“It’s a pretty good tweet, I thought. I was nice, could have been a lot meaner,” said Vlasic, who played for Team Canada at the 2014 Sochi Games and the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. “My tweet says it all.”
“I bit my tongue and just put out the photo.”
After months of negotiations between the NHL, the NHL Players’ Association and the International Olympic Committee, the league announced Monday that it will be not be sending its players to Pyeongchang. NHL players have participated in the past five Winter Olympics beginning with the Nagano Games in 1998.
The NHL opted out of Olympic participation after the players’ association and the IOC refused to give concessions to team owners who are weary about shutting down the league for several weeks to play in a tournament in which a majority of the games will be held in the middle of the night in North America.
Once the news broke on Monday, several former Olympians, including New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price and Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson voiced their frustration with the decision.
The Sharks had a day off from practice and media availability, but it didn’t stop Vlasic from taking a jab at the decision on Twitter.
“We’ve been marketing the game overseas since I’ve been in the league. We want to do it next year, I believe, in Sweden and China,” Vlasic said, referring to the NHL’s plans to host exhibition games in Beijing and Shanghai next fall and two regular-season games in Stockholm.
“We do it, but then we don’t want to do it. Great exposure for the league overseas where we’ve been wanting to market the game for 11 years. (In 2014) Canadians, Swedes, even Americans watched the finals even if it was overseas. No matter what time zone, or what time it is, passionate fans will watch the game.”
Although the NHL has expressed interest in returning to the Olympics for the 2022 Beijing Games, Vlasic said the IOC should “ban” the league from future participation.
Before the announcement, Washington Capitals star Alexander Ovechkin had made known his plans to compete for Team Russia in Pyeongchang regardless of the NHL’s decision, a move that Capitals owner Ted Leonsis says he will support.
Would Vlasic consider leaving the Sharks in the middle of the season to compete for Team Canada?
“We’ll see what the fine is,” Vlasic said with a grin. “Players deserve to go.
“It happens once every four years, but now we put in the World Cup, so a condensed schedule happens every two years. But for the World Cup it’s OK. Guys get injured in the World Cup, but that’s OK. Shorter summers, longer seasons, but that’s OK.”
Unlike the Olympics, the World Cup is put on by the NHL and the players’ association, who share the revenue. Sharks captain Joe Pavelski, who captained Team USA at the World Cup last fall, expressed disappointment at the decision.
Just one goal shy of his fifth 30-goal season in six years, Pavelski, 32, would be a strong candidate to participate in his third Olympics if the NHL was going to Pyeongchang. But his window of opportunity might be closed by 2022 in Beijing.
“They don’t come around very often, every four years, and when you get your chance, it’s pretty cool to be a part of,” Pavelski said.
Pavelski said he’s still holding out hope that a deal can be reached guaranteeing NHL participation in Pyeongchang.
“At the end of the day, you always think you’re going to play. You don’t realize certain things behind the scenes,” Pavelski said. “I had the belief that something might happen and something might change and you get to go. Obviously, right now, it’s definitely a step in the wrong direction, but hopefully, something will change and we can still go.”