Lightning players upset over NHL Olympics decision
The NHL's decision to not participate in the 2018 Olympics in South Korea struck a few nerves in the Lightning dressing room.
"Extremely, extremely disappointed," defenseman Victor Hedman said. "Just a loss for words."
Added wing Ryan Callahan: "It's too bad."
But veteran defenseman Anton Stralman had the strongest words, suggesting the NHL and its owners are putting money over the players, fans and ability to grow the game.
"They can make up all the excuses for not going, player health, I don't think they really care about that," he said. "All they really care about is more money, that's the bottom line. That's what it's all about. That's even more sad to me. It's a few billionaires trying to make an extra buck."
The NHL, and its owners, were concerned about not only shutting down the season for three weeks at a peak time (in February when the NFL is over and MLB hasn't started), but also the health of superstar players. Stralman's issue was that there wasn't enough communication between the league and players.
"It's a players' league," Stralman said. "They're doing the business side of it and doing a good job of it. But we're the ones putting in all the work. We'd like to go play on the big tournaments. I'm not worried about my health. They sure are not. I don't see the issue."
Captain Steven Stamkos, who like Hedman and Stralman has never participated in an Olympics, said he's disappointed as well. Stamkos, who missed the 2014 Sochi Olympics due to injury, said he hopes there's still a chance of the NHL participating, maybe they can change the league's mind.
"It's a once in a lifetime opportunity," Stamkos said. "(You can) really grow the game. It's at its best right now. You want to participate in the Olympics. From what I've heard, it's an unbelievable experience."
Veteran wing Ryan Callahan, a two-time U.S. Olympian, can vouch for how much his experiences meant to him and his family. "You realize how lucky I was to play in those two," Callahan said.
None of the Lightning players, from Stamkos to Hedman to Nikita Kucherov, would explicitly say they'd go to the Olympics anyway. Capitals star Alex Ovechkin reiterated Tuesday that he still plans to go for Russia. They don't know what the rules or ramifications would be.
But many still hold out hope that the NHL will change its mind.
"I guess it's not over until the Olympics start and we're not there," Callahan. "You never know. I've heard matters being closed before on numerous occasions and be re-opened. Anything is possible."