Hawks' Wirtz weighs in on NHL in Olympics

CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks chairman Rocky Wirtz said Friday he didn’t have an opinion to date on whether the NHL should continue to allow its players to participate in the Olympics.

“I really don’t,” Wirtz said at a restaurant in downtown Chicago. “I’m only one of 30 (owners), and at this point I don’t have a vote.

“At this point, it’s early. The nice thing is we get to go right now to the Stanley Cup, and let’s focus on that. It’s going to be an exciting time. We have 22 games left, and let’s see what we can do.”

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman spoke just before Wirtz and had a similar response. Bettman said the NHL would address the topic in time. NHL players have been participating in the Olympics since 1998.

“Ultimately, we have to make a decision,” Bettman said. “It’s not something, despite all the speculation, it’s not something that has been discussed. It’s not something we’re ready to discuss. We’re more focused right now on the stretch run into the end of the regular season and into the playoffs and then we’ll deal with (whether) international events makes sense to us.

“I mean it’s amazing. I watch this debate that comes on fast and furious like we’ve never had this before. This has been going on for a decade after each Olympics. You have to take a deep breath and evaluate it and it’s something the governors have to decide, the owners. Something the players have to focus on as well. And we’ll do it in due and ordinary course as we always have.”

Bettman spoke positively about the recent Olympics held in Sochi, Russia.

“The Olympics were well conducted in Sochi,” Bettman said. “Depending on who you rooted for, it either had an outcome that was terrific or not so terrific. But the experience in terms of the competitors being there was fine. The prognostication to the contrary about what was going on Sochi really wasn’t well founded.”

The Blackhawks were represented by 10 players at the Olympics. Three Blackhawks won the gold with Canada and three others finished with the silver for Sweden.

“It’s nice the ones that came back with medals,” Wirtz said. “It was terrific. I’m happy for them all. It was an honor for all 10 to go over there. I think we should have had more (Olympians,) too.”