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NHL hopes to soon announce return to China for preseason games

Deputy Commissioner praises Ovechkin for role as League ambassador to country

NHL.com @NHLdotcom

The NHL hopes to announce preseason games in China for next season soon, Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said Thursday.

"We hope to be in a position to announce the game earlier than we have in prior years, coming up in the next couple of months," the Deputy Commissioner said during the NHL European Player Media Tour in Stockholm. "Hopefully we continue to develop and deepen our ties in China, and that means more games, more players, more teams, more League activities in China."

The NHL will not be sending teams to China this fall because of logistical issues with booking arenas. The NHL had two preseason games in China each of the past two seasons.

Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin went to China this month as an ambassador for the League, helping to promote the game. The Deputy Commissioner said he was a perfect choice.

"I think he transcends the game," Deputy Commissioner Daly said. "His personality is such that he connects with everybody. He's a fantastic player on the ice, but a really interesting person off the ice. I had a full briefing yesterday of how well it went when he was there and he kind of connected with everybody, he did everything he was asked to do and really enjoyed doing it. He was a fantastic ambassador for the NHL and for NHL hockey."

Tweet from @ovi8: great experience to see the great wall of China!!!!!! #Gr8inChina !! pic.twitter.com/WVVrXeXWmO

The Deputy Commissioner said Ovechkin's visit, which included an on-ice clinic with local youth players and a visit to the Great Wall, was another step in the NHL's goal of growing hockey in China.

"We have to take that a step at a time," Deputy Commissioner Daly said. "I don't see us playing regular-season games next year in China, but we'll continue with bringing teams over there and playing preseason games for a while, and look for strategic ways to continue to grow hockey's presence in China because I think the development of the sport is most critical at this point, less about the National Hockey League and more about the game of hockey and developing the game of hockey in China and more focused on trying to do that."

The Deputy Commissioner said the League is "nowhere near a resolution" regarding whether NHL players will participate in the 2022 Beijing Olympics. The NHL did not send players to the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics. He did say he understands how important the Olympics are to China.

"There's no doubt the Olympics are a critical element of the growth of ice hockey in China and the exposure to the people of China for the game of hockey," Deputy Commissioner Daly said. "Whether that complicates our decision, every Olympic decision is a different one."

Daly also discussed the status of the collective bargaining agreement while in Stockholm, saying that early negotiations have been positive.

"There's been no angry words at all in the process," he told Sportsnet. "There have been active players at every meeting, and I think the dialogue's been really good."

The NHL and the NHL Players' Association have met several times during the summer, according to Daly, as each side faces a decision next month whether to trigger an early termination of the 10-year CBA, which was ratified in January 2013.

The NHL can exercise its right to early termination until Sept. 1. If it passes, the NHLPA has until Sept. 15 to trigger the termination process and end the agreement in September 2020.

If each side passes on early termination, the CBA would expire in September 2022.

"The general state of things, there seems to be a lot of agreement on," Daly told Sportsnet. "It's very kind of amorphous right now but there doesn't seem to be like a huge sticking point on the issues we've talked about. I think there's general agreement kind of directionally. Where we should be going.

"I think both sides have been open that the agreement's not a perfect agreement and could be improved, but nobody's holding out for a home run."

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