Hockey Canada plans to fully cover its players' insurance packages this season, beginning with the upcoming orientation camp and continuing throughout the regular season, President and CEO Bob Nicholson announced during a conference call Friday.
NHL teams are not required to insure their players for Olympic events, and the NHL Players' Association had voiced its concern over athletes taking part in on-ice competition at Olympic camps.
"We're proud of what we've done with the insurance program," Nicholson said. "We've found a way to deliver what I think is the best insurance program in sport in the world. We have the best players in the world coming to Calgary and felt we wanted to put them in the position where they felt comfortable. With the move today, players won't have any questions in regards to insurance."
The Canadian National Men's Olympic Team begins its four-day orientation camp Monday in preparation for the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver this February. During past Olympic Games in which NHL players participated for the Canadian squad, they received anywhere from limited to no additional insurance coverage from Hockey Canada. That won't be the case for the 46 players vying for roster spots this time around.
Nicholson said players who had already upgraded their own insurance packages for camp "will get reimbursed for their dollars through the package we are finalizing now." He said the decision was made, in part, as a measure of goodwill toward now-established NHL players who once served their nation well as youngsters in other capacities.
"I know what a majority of these players have done for us so far -- we've created a lot of revenue out of World Juniors, World Cups, with these players," Nicholson said. "We are giving back to them, saying thank you."
NHLPA Executive Director Paul Kelly
later released a statement expressing satisfaction with the decision.
"The NHLPA is pleased to learn today that Hockey Canada has decided to provide full insurance coverage for NHLPA members who have been invited to participate in the Canadian Olympic Orientation Camp next week in Calgary," Kelly said.
"The health and well-being of our members is of paramount importance to this Association, and our members would have been exposed to significant risk without the full coverage that is now being provided.
"NHLPA members are extremely proud when given the chance to represent their country on the international stage, and we are confident that this development will enhance the overall Olympic experience for these Canadian members."
Nicholson said the money to cover this plan would come from various sources, including $400,000 expected to be raised as the result of Thursday's Red vs. White scrimmage that will conclude the orientation camp. He expects other benefactors to come forward as well.
"It's great when people step up, and I think they will step up," he said.