(ATR) The National Hockey League’s Board of Governors express a strong negative sentiment towards sending its players to PyeongChang 2018 according to league commissioner Gary Bettman.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman (Getty Images)
Bettman also conveyed that no formal vote or decision was taken by league owners at the nine-member executive committee meeting on Thursday in South Florida.
The 64-year-old commissioner of the league – who has been at the helm for more than 23 years – concedes that time is running out for an Olympic decision based upon the need for NHL scheduling for next season. The elite league would once again need to shut down operations in North America as it has done for the previous five Winter Olympics.
Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly recently remarked that they want the Olympic matter resolved by the end of January. However, hopes appear to be fading.
National Hockey League insider Rob Simpson, who is a co-host on the “Stellick and Simmer” show on Sirius-XM NHL Network radio, downgrades the chances of NHL players skating in PyeongChang to less than 50-percent.
Rob Simpson interviews 4-time U.S. Olympian Keith Tkachuk (Rob Simpson)
“The league and owners position is that they don’t really want to go to South Korea,” Simpson tells Around the Rings
. “They see some benefit in going to China (Beijing 2022) because it is such a huge market for branding and merchandise, but South Korea there is no real financial appeal.
“Without IOC money, they see no reason in shutting down their league and providing their personnel for what they see as no benefit – financial or otherwise,” said Simpson, who is based in Toronto and has covered the sport for 30 years. “They risk their players’ health and they essentially shut down their operations.”
The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) has claimed it will cover the travel, insurance, accommodation and hospitality costs of sending NHL players to the Olympics, which the IOC says it will no longer finance.
“The players obviously want to go, but I think the sentiment of the owners is no South Korea,” Simpson added.
Hockey federation president and IOC executive board member René Fasel, who has stated his intention in doing whatever necessary to get the NHL to Korea in Feb. 2018, recently put the chances at 50-50.
Team Canada with their gold medals in Sochi 2014 (ATR)
Hockey fans overwhelmingly would like to once again see the world’s best players go head to head in PyeongChang. In a recent Sportsnet Olympic poll by fans involving more than 1900 participants, 77% voted yes to going, while 23% said no.
“I realistically see the possibility, and I’m not sure if we should call it a mutiny, of a decent number of guys saying we’re going (to the Olympics) regardless and dealing with the consequences,” Simpson said.
Simpson also noted that deputy commissioner Daly advised to NHL owners that it would be up to the individual teams to sort out these challenges, providing it doesn’t balloon into an overwhelming number of players.
The United States scores versus Russia at Sochi 2014 (ATR)
In another development last week, Bettman offered to let the players go to PyeongChang if they agreed to a three-year extension on the current Collective Bargaining Agreement. As expected, the players' union officially turned down the proposal.
"No demands were made,” Bettman said. “It was never like that. It was always in a discussion."
“I thought the NHL move to extend the CBA for three years in exchange for the Olympics was, for lack of a better term, tacky,” Simpson said.
Simpson also spoke to two NHL head coaches – Bill Peters of the Carolina Hurricanes and Bruce Boudreau of the Minnesota Wild. Peters and Boudreau have opposing views on Olympic participation.
Peters, who is also involved with Team Canada’s coaching staff, told Simpson “he loves the concept of best on best hockey no matter what and is very excited about the Olympics all the time.”
Boudreau, who is not involved in international level coaching, is indifferent about NHL Olympic participation and most concerned with focusing on his Minnesota Wild team.
Despite the NHL-imposed end of January deadline, history has dictated that this decision can wait until late in the summer before an Olympic Games. That was the case with the 2006 Turin Games and again for Sochi in 2014.
And how might an NHL no-show in Korea affect hockey fans worldwide?
“I’m an old school traditionalist and I’d like to see NHL players in the Olympics,” Simpson said. “There is a decent sentiment for hockey people and hockey fans to have the NHL go. And that’s the sentiment that the league is battling.”
Written by Brian Pinelli
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