The NHL had big plans to get market share in China.
The first skate has dropped in how safe will the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics be for athletes’ health. The National Hockey League and the National Hockey League Players Association have decided that it is not worth the health risk sending players to a market that the NHL and players want a piece of. China. There is money to be made in China and NHL owners and NHL players know that and this would have been a coming out party for the NHL in a market that is potentially rather lucrative. Hockey is a minor sport in China, but money has been put into local programs with the hope that one day China will be among the top hockey playing countries in the world. But that has been put on hold and a new NHL marketing strategy will have to be developed to tap into the China marketplace.
For NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and the NHL players who would have made the trip to China, now they won’t face questions about China’s human rights record or the tensions between the American government and Beijing or the Canadian government and the Chinese political leadership. The International Olympic Committee has been dealt a blow by the NHL’s opt out decision. The IOC likes big names at its events and hockey does have something of a global appeal in Russia, eastern and northern Europe and North America. It is unlikely the IOC and the International Ice Hockey Federation will cancel the hockey portion of the Olympics as there are enough players outside of the NHL around to compete. The NHL has to get its core business in order, games, while the Omicron COVID-19 illness spreads. The league has taken a pause until December 27th and plans to start up business again on that date.
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