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NHL focused on 2017-18 schedule without Olympics

Commissioner Gary Bettman: 'Nothing new' regarding players going to PyeongChang games

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / Columnist

BOCA RATON, Fla. -- The NHL is focused on a 2017-18 schedule that does not include the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, Commissioner Gary Bettman said Wednesday.

That could change "if something dramatic happened at some point in time," Commissioner Bettman said. But no meetings are scheduled between the NHL and the International Olympic Committee, the International Ice Hockey Federation or the NHL Players' Association.

"There's absolutely nothing new," Commissioner Bettman said after the NHL general managers met here. "I think the overwhelming sentiment of the teams is that it's very disruptive on the season, and there's somewhere between fatigue and negativity on the subject."

NHL players have participated in the past five Winter Olympics. But over time, the owners have found little to no benefit to shutting down their league and sending their players to someone else's tournament, particularly when the Olympics are overseas.

Commissioner Bettman said the NHL would not set a deadline. Asked how the process could move forward, he said, "You have to talk to the other people involved. As things stand now, there's really nothing for us to focus on. … We don't have an agreement to go. We're focusing on things in that regard."

NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said he has not spoken with the NHLPA about players going to the Olympics on their own.

"As a contractual matter, they can't," he said.

Sweden hockey officials, who met with NHL GMs to discuss their development model, said they hoped NHL players would participate in the Olympics so the best Swedish players could play for their national team but also so their country would not have to shut down its top league.

"We have a really tight schedule, so it's difficult to close it down," said Jorgen Lindgren, CEO of the Swedish Hockey League.

Lindgren said the SHL was planning two schedules.

"We also do understand the problems for the NHL to close down their league and losing money and all that," said Tommy Boustedt, general secretary of the Swedish Hockey Federation. "We don't think there are easy answers around this matter.

"My personal opinion about this is that the IOC, they must understand that hockey is the most important sport in the Winter Olympics. I really think that they should have the hockey in a better way than they do today. We need to be more appreciated."

If NHL players do not participate in the PyeongChang Olympics, that does not rule out Beijing in 2022.

"Certainly there's a little more business opportunity in the Chinese games," Deputy Commissioner Daly said. "It creates the same disruption. It might be a different evaluation and formula."

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