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Bettman: Decision on 2018 Olympics on horizon

by Dan Rosen

TORONTO -- A decision on the participation of the NHL and its players in the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics could come within the year, Commissioner Gary Bettman said Monday from the PrimeTime Sports Management Conference and Trade Show.

Commissioner Bettman added the League has to weigh the potential benefits of also committing to the 2022 Beijing Olympics into its decision on the 2018 Olympics because of the potential windfall of marketing and growth the game and League could experience in China.

"The question is would the fact that the Winter Olympics in Beijing introduce that country to hockey and give us an opportunity to make a real impression in China, where hockey is really in an embryonic state?" Commissioner Bettman said. "That's a discussion we have to have to determine whether or not there is an opportunity to grow the game in China by using the Winter Games with NHL players as a catalyst. That's the question. I don't know the answer."

Neither Commissioner Bettman nor NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly would commit to a hard deadline for when a decision on future Olympic participation must be made, but it could come around the same time as the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, which takes place in Toronto from Sept. 17 through Oct. 1. It will be the first World Cup of Hockey the NHL and NHL Players' Association have held since 2004.

"As a practical matter there is a deadline on the Olympic decision, but it's not any time soon," Daly said. "Certainly, the World Cup would fall within a window of time that we have available to us to make that decision. I'm not suggesting it will take that long, but I'm not suggesting it will be made before then either. We'll kind of see how that goes."

Commissioner Bettman said the International Ice Hockey Federation wants the NHL to decide on 2022 at the same time it decides on 2018. The IIHF is the governing body for the Olympic hockey tournament.

"Beijing alters the dynamic of the analysis, at least a little bit," Commissioner Bettman said during a panel discussion with Gord Miller of TSN and NBC Sports. "[If] it turns out to be like Nagano was [in 1998], and there was no aftereffect and no wake left behind, I'm not sure it [changes] the analysis at all."

The NHL has participated in the past five Winter Olympics, including two in Europe (Turin in 2006, Sochi in 2014), and one in Asia (Nagano in 1998).

"Two have been in North America -- one in Salt Lake City (2002), one in Vancouver (2010) -- and certainly our Olympic experiences as a League in those two Olympics happened to be more favorable than they were when the Olympics were far away," Daly said. "The Commissioner was alluding to the fact that with Beijing being awarded the 2022 Games, it does change the equation a little bit for us. Certainly, we view growth of our fan base and into markets where we might not have been before to be a priority for the League, and that may create opportunities to kind of build hockey's profile in Asia, which ultimately is a long-term goal of the League."


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