Friday meeting could boost NHL’s Olympic prospects

Friday meeting could boost NHL's Olympic prospects

NHL participation in the 2018 Olympics may get a much-needed boost on Friday.

A source has confirmed to The Canadian Press that a meeting will take place in New York City between NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr, IOC president Thomas Bach and IIHF president Rene Fasel. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the meeting hasn’t been announced by any of the parties involved.

The gathering could go a long way towards determining whether NHL players attend the next Olympics in South Korea, a prospect that’s looked increasingly grim.

During all-star weekend in Los Angeles, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said: “If the status quo remains I don’t expect us to be in the Olympics.”  

Daly said a “compelling reason” was required to sway NHL owners toward their players attending a sixth straight Games. Owners are evidently concerned about shutting down operations for two-plus weeks and unconvinced about any tangible benefit to the league when players participate.

A face-to-face meeting between the NHL and IOC, in particular, could prove especially helpful to the process.

Bettman said Bach “may have opened a whole can of worms” and sparked negative sentiment among owners when he declared that the IOC would no longer cover out-of-pocket payments for NHL players to attend the Games.

“…I think it caused a number of clubs to say ‘Well, wait a minute. If that’s how they value our participation why are we knocking ourselves out?'” Bettman said during a state of the union media address at the all-star festivities in Los Angeles. 

The NHL and IOC haven’t dealt directly with one another throughout the Olympic negotiation process with Fasel acting instead as intermediary.

Connor McDavid joined a growing group of NHL players urging the league toward attending the Games one year from now. The 20-year-old, who would be a lock to play for the next edition of Team Canada, said he couldn’t picture the Olympics without NHL players.

“There’s a lot of people higher up than me that are going to be figuring that one out, but 100 per cent they should go,” McDavid said. 

Jonathan Toews, who won gold with Canada at the last two Olympics, echoed those sentiments. 

“A lot of the talk has been it’s the players pushing for it, and it’s the players that are interested and want to go. I think the players do want to go, but I think it should be of interest to the players and the league,” Toews said during all-star weekend. “I think the NHL should be in the Olympics.”

Jonas Siegel, The Canadian Press

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