As the Buffalo Sabres and Tampa Bay Lightning face off internationally with the Global Series in Sweden this weekend, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman took the time to address the league's future participation in the Olympics.
Bettman said during Friday's pregame press conference in Stockholm that he and NHLPA executive Don Fehr met with René Fasel, the executive director of the International Ice Hockey Federation, about NHL players skating in the Olympics. He characterized the meeting as "more a philosophical and procedural discussion" than decisive on the NHL's participation in the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing, and also said there was "no news to report" on the matter.
“I don’t want to sound like a broken record on the subject, but I think going to the Olympics is a challenge for us,” Bettman said, via Sportsnet. “I know the players love representing their countries, I know that the players like going, I know that the players that don’t go like having a break in the middle of the season. But from our standpoint, we have found going to the Olympics to be incredibly disruptive… to our season.”
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The 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, were the first Olympic games to not feature NHL players since the league's best first skated at Nagano 1998. That year, the NHL took a 17-day break from its schedule to accommodate the players competing. Since the Winter Olympics always fall in the middle of the regular season, that practice has remained in each tournament since, causing worry about revenue and potential injury to star players for individual team owners.
The International Olympic Committee refused to cover the cost of travel, insurance and accommodations for NHL players ahead of the 2018 games — a sticking point in the league's decision not to allow its players to compete.
Ovechkin on the Olympics: pic.twitter.com/NAxx7hfaXp
— Matthew Paras (@Matthew_Paras) September 15, 2017
According to a 2018 Time Magazine article, the IOC does not cover these costs for other professional sports leagues such as the NBA. The IIHF then reportedly offered to pay up to $20 million for the NHL players' costs and insurance, but the NHL still declined and kept its players home. Insurance for NHL players at the 2014 games in Sochi, Russia, cost the IOC $7 million, according to the New York Times.
In Stockholm, Bettman lamented that the IOC would not even allow the league to promote its own participation in the Olympics as just another facet of the problem.
“It’s a complicated issue," he told reporters, as per Sportsnet. "It’s something that the players’ association continues to raise with us. It’s something that Rene Fasel and the IIHF continues to raise with us. But as I said previously, there’s nothing new to report in that regard because for us, at best, it’s a mixed bag. And again, I think it has some pretty material downsides in terms of what happens to our season.”