PITTSBURGH, PA -- The possibility of NHL participation in the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics hinges on whether the IOC and IIHF agree to fund the out-of-pocket costs for the League to send players to a sixth consecutive Olympics, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said Monday.
Commissioner Bettman, speaking at a press conference with NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly prior to Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final at Consol Energy Center, said he doesn't believe the League's owners would be willing to pay the cost of sending players to the Olympics in the middle of the season.
Commissioner Bettman estimated the cost at being "many, many, many millions of dollars" to cover expenses such as transportation, insurance and accommodations for the approximately 150 NHL players who would participate in the Olympics.
Daly said a decision on the NHL's Olympic participation will come before the end of 2016.
"I want to remind everyone that the International Olympic Committee and International Ice Hockey Federation have funded the out-of-pocket cost of NHL players attending the past five Olympics, and these costs have been considerable to say the least," Commissioner Bettman said. "If presidents Thomas Bach of the IOC and Rene Fasel of the IIHF are unable to resolve the expense issue, I have no doubt that it will have a significant impact on our decision. I'm pretty sure that our teams are not really interested in paying for the privilege of disrupting our season, but we'll have to see what they ultimately decide to do."
Commissioner Bettman said Bach has shown no inclination to offer special subsidies to any sport since he took over as IOC president in 2013. He said Fasel is continuing to work with Bach to try to resolve the issue.
"[Fasel] very much wants to try to find a solution," Commissioner Bettman said.
Daly said after the press conference he doesn't anticipate pushback from the NHLPA if the IOC and IIHF won't agree to fund the NHL's out-of-pocket expenses for Olympic participation.
"I think even [NHLPA executive director] Don Fehr is on record as saying that if the expense issue isn't at least replicated that he wouldn't be in a position to recommend to the players on going to the Olympics," Daly said.
Even if a solution is found, Commissioner Bettman said the League has not had substantive discussions with the NHLPA on all the other issues and potential concerns or differences of opinions that come with Olympic participation.
"We and the Players' Association conceivably may have different views on it, but it's a joint decision," Commissioner Bettman said. "But we don't even have to have that discussion and debate if the expenses aren't being paid. Everybody understands what distinguishes us from any other professional sports league or sport that participates in the Olympics; this comes right in the middle of the season and there are hard costs to that participation. We're sending roughly 150 players to the Olympics if we go, and there are real logistical costly elements to doing that."
However, Commissioner Bettman said that regardless of what happens for the 2018 Olympics, the NHL has not ruled out its potential participation in the 2022 Beijing Olympics. He said the League is attempting to dissect the potential of Beijing as a hockey market.
"That's a dialogue we're trying to initiate," Commissioner Bettman said. "It hasn't yet gotten to the level that we're hoping it gets to, but that's obviously something that we're focused on and will ultimately consider."