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Decision on 2018 Olympics participation in January

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman says League faces challenges in insurance, travel, accommodation costs

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer

TORONTO -- A decision on NHL participation in the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics likely won't drag past January, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said Monday.

"Whether it's Jan. 1 or 15th or 20th, that's not the issue," Commissioner Bettman said. "This isn't drifting into the spring."

Commissioner Bettman, speaking during a 1-on-1 session with Gord Miller of TSN at the PrimeTime Sports & Entertainment Conference, said the timetable is dictated by the League's need to put together its schedule for the 2017-18 season, and the fact that the International Ice Hockey Federation and International Olympic Committee need time to come up with a contingency plan for the men's ice hockey tournament should the NHL not attend.

The League typically makes the season schedule public in June, but it works for several months with all the teams to devise the schedule before its finalized.

"That process is taking place now," deputy commissioner Bill Daly said. "Certainly the big factor of having a two-and-a-half week hold in the schedule or not is vital to putting the games in the right places."

Commissioner Bettman outlined the various challenges the NHL has in determining if it should shut down the 2017-18 season for two-and-a-half weeks in February to send players to the Olympics for a sixth consecutive time.

Chief among them is the approximately $10 million in insurance, travel and accommodation costs for the players and their guests.

The IOC has covered those costs for the past five Olympics, but has indicated to the NHL and the IIHF that it will not cover them this time.

Representatives from NHL will meet with representatives from the IIHF on Wednesday to get an update on where the IOC stands and potentially what options exist should the IOC continue to be unwavering on the cost issue.

The IIHF met with the IOC last week, according to Daly.

Commissioner Bettman said there is the potential for the IIHF to provide money as a way to defray the costs of insurance, travel and accommodations for the League and its players, but he also offered a concern with such a scenario.

"The most likely thing is the International Ice Hockey Federation will come in and say we're going to do it on a pared-down basis," Commissioner Bettman said. "It may impact what is provided to the players and their families, but conceptually if you're worried about hockey development worldwide at the grassroots level, why are they taking money away from that to fund NHL player participation at the Olympics?"

Commissioner Bettman said the NHL doesn't make any money by going to the Olympics and in fact has an overhead cost above what the IOC typically has provided for the players. As a result, he doesn't foresee a scenario where League owners choose to cover the costs of the travel, insurance and accommodations.

The NHL Board of Governors is scheduled to meet Dec. 8-9 in Palm Beach, Fla.

"Ultimately it's a decision from an NHL standpoint that the owners are going to make, and I know there's some grumpiness, I don't know exactly how much, on the whole process of disrupting the season," Commissioner Bettman said. "Again, when it comes to disrupting the season, we go halfway around the world, play a half a dozen games that matter in either Canada and the U.S., or maybe less than a half a dozen games. You play them at odd times and you give up for 17 days prime-time exposure when we're about the hit the stretch run of our season, when there is no football, no baseball, just us and the NBA. It's tough. There's a loss in momentum."

Commissioner Bettman said he has not gotten an answer on how the IIHF and IOC would feel about the NHL skipping the PyeongChang Olympics but agreeing to attend the 2022 Beijing Olympics, which could represent more of a global marketing and grassroots hockey opportunity for the League.

"The IOC says this is how we're going to do it, we're not going to pay, you can't do this or that," Commissioner Bettman said. "It doesn't give you the warm and fuzzies. Having said that, we've managed for the last five Olympics to go, although what the IOC is saying now is a little bit of a game changer at least in terms of what has to be considered before making a decision."

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