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Owners express concerns about 2018 Olympics

Cost of PyeongChang Games, NHL schedule discussed at Board of Governors meeting

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer

PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The NHL did not conduct a vote or reach a decision on player participation in the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics during the Board of Governors meeting here Thursday. Commissioner Gary Bettman did say that the governors have expressed concerns about NHL players participating in the Olympics for a sixth straight time.

Commissioner Bettman did not issue a deadline for when a decision has to be reached but said it has to happen soon. He said last month in Toronto that a decision would have to be reached in January at the latest to accommodate the 2017-18 NHL schedule and to allow the International Olympic Committee and International Ice Hockey Federation to proceed with plans for the tournament.

"If there is something at some point to take to the Board, it will need an affirmative vote of the Board of Governors," Commissioner Bettman said Thursday. "I think it's fair to say that there is some strong negative sentiment in the room, but nothing was decided today."

One of the barriers blocking a decision on Olympic participation is the cost of travel, insurance and accommodations for the players and their guests. The IOC has covered those costs in the past five Olympics but to date has not agreed to do so for PyeongChang.

"If the expenses aren't being covered, it's a non-starter, there's nothing to even talk about," Commissioner Bettman said.

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IIHF president Rene Fasel has said that the federation has the money to cover those costs, but Commissioner Bettman said he has not been told that fact definitively and said he wasn't sure it would sway the opinion of the Board of Governors.

"We have been very clear to Rene Fasel at the IIHF and to Don Fehr at the [NHL] Players' Association that if the expenses aren't being covered, the League isn't paying for them and there really is nothing to talk about," Commissioner Bettman said. "Just because somebody may decide to pay for them, and to this point we don't actually know where that stands, that doesn't mean that it's a go."

Commissioner Bettman outlined other concerns the Board of Governors have regarding Olympic participation in 2018, including the effect of suspending the NHL season for two and a half weeks in February.

"There are a lot of owners, clubs, over the years that have been very concerned about what Olympic participation does to the season, what it does to the players in terms of injuries, not just to those that go but having a compressed schedule can make the players more tired, more wear and tear, and the potential for injury is greater," Commissioner Bettman said. "I think after doing five of these, I don't know, fatigue might be a word?"

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Commissioner Bettman said the potential for a long-term international calendar that features multiple events, including the Olympics in 2018 and 2022, when they are in Beijing, and the World Cup of Hockey in 2020 and 2024, potentially could sway the sentiment of the Board toward the positive side.

He said the NHL has discussed that with the NHLPA, with the idea that extending the collective bargaining agreement three years, through the 2024-25 season, would enable all of it to happen without any labor disruptions.

Fehr told The Canadian Press last Friday that the NHLPA has no interest in extending the CBA as part of the Olympic discussion but that it remained important for the players to come to an agreement with the NHL that would allow them to go to the Olympics.

"This was never intended to be a negotiation," Commissioner Bettman said. "I know there's some strong negative sentiment by the clubs. I don't know whether or not there's even the money to cover what's been covered in the last Olympics. The IIHF would probably say yes. … If that means taking it away from hockey development, I'm not so sure that that's a good idea. But at the end of the day, we are where we are, which is why there was nothing for the Board to do today."

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