Fans want to see NHL players play at the Olympics, the players want to play in the tournament, but the NHL’s Board of Governors still needs some convincing.
If the NHL is going to send players to the Olympics, the NHL’s Board of Governors are going to need some convincing and they’re going to need it in rather short order.
It was reported around the World Cup of Hockey that the NHL had a mid-January deadline to decide on Olympic participation for the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics. And at the first day of Board of Governors meetings in Palm Beach, Fla., little more than a month from that deadline, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman didn’t make it sound as though the situation is all that positive in terms of the world’s best players heading to the tournament.
One of the sticking points for the Board of Governors, according to Bettman, was the impact the Olympics have on the NHL product.
"There are a lot of owners, clubs, over the years that have been very concerned about what Olympic participation does to the season, what it does to the players in terms of injuries, not just to those that go but having a compressed schedule can make the players more tired, more wear and tear, and the potential for injury is greater,” Bettman said, according to NHL.com’s Dan Rosen.
The other major issue, as has been reported throughout the past summer and into the early part of the season, is the cost of playing at the Olympics. There are a host of expenses associated with the players suiting up at the Olympics, including insurance and travel costs, but IIHF president Rene Fasel told Sportsnet in mid-November that the federation would find a way to cover those costs.
Even still, Bettman approached the IIHF’s assurance of covering the costs with skepticism and a warning that it doesn’t mean Olympic participation is green lit.
"We have been very clear to Rene Fasel at the IIHF and to Don Fehr at the [NHL] Players' Association that if the expenses aren't being covered, the League isn't paying for them and there really is nothing to talk about," Bettman said, according to Rosen. "Just because somebody may decide to pay for them, and to this point we don't actually know where that stands, that doesn't mean that it's a go.”
Bettman added that he wasn’t sure there was “even the money to cover what's been covered in the last Olympics,” regardless of what the IIHF would say. And even if everything fell in line for an Olympic participation proposal in the coming days, weeks or month, Bettman said it will still need the approval of the Board of Governors in order for the players to be sent to South Korea for the tournament.
"If there is something at some point to take to the Board, it will need an affirmative vote of the Board of Governors," Bettman said, according to Rosen. "I think it's fair to say that there is some strong negative sentiment in the room, but nothing was decided today.”
Want more in-depth features and expert analysis on the game you love? Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.