Every four years since 1998, the biggest stage in hockey has become the Olympic Games.
That, of course, is set to change in February, when the 2018 Winter Games will not feature a NHL stoppage, meaning many of the best players in the world – including most in the league – will not be taking part in PyeongChang.
The attractiveness of that tournament just took another hit when the IOC announced Tuesday that the entire Russian delegation will be banned because of state-sponsored doping.
Russia’s flag and anthem will be absent from February’s PyeongChang Games, the IOC decided, as penalties for a doping regime that included the sabotage of drug testing during the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi.
There is a workaround – Russian athletes who can prove they are clean will be able to compete under the designation of an "Olympic Athlete from Russia (OAR, though not Of A Revolution)."
So where does this leave the Russian hockey team?
It remains to be seen. The athletes seem to want to go under the OAR designation, but whether the country will allow that is up in the air
Team Russia, hockey one, sent a letter to Putin asking to allow them to play at the Olympics under neutral flag. In October Russian president said it's unacceptable and never shared any other opinion
— Igor Eronko (@IgorEronko) December 5, 2017
It leaves such athletes as Alex Ovechkin, who has said he still has planned to take part despite the NHL's decision, up in the air. And it also could hurt a player like Vladislav Gavrikov, a Blue Jackets prospect who re-signed in the KHL after last season in part because he wanted to take part in the Olympics.
Time will tell how this will develop over the coming months. But today's decision appears to have one of its biggest impacts in hockey, where Russia has made earning a gold medal a priority over the past decade.