Bettman argues that Olympic participation hurts NHL product

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LOS ANGELES — Gary Bettman reiterated his criticism of the International Olympic Committee today, as prospects of a deal to send NHLers to the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea remain in doubt.

In an interview with Sportsnet’s Ron MacLean, the commissioner also said that the NHL owes it to the fans to ensure Olympic participation doesn’t affect the quality of the league’s product.

“Our fans love NHL hockey, and that’s what our obligation is to provide, night in and night out, on a best-quality basis,” said Bettman. “And subjecting the game to players who might get injured more often, or are more tired because they’ve got more back-to-backs, so they’re playing five games in seven nights — that’s what you get when you disrupt the schedule.”

Yesterday, Bettman criticized the IOC for its refusal to cover insurance, travel and accommodation costs. He again pointed the finger today, saying the IOC “made a terrible mistake by putting [the expenses] in issue,” since formerly indifferent NHL owners were now wondering if disrupting the season was worth it.

The players still want to go to the Olympics.

“It’s a great experience,” said Sidney Crosby. “I’ve had a couple of opportunities to be a part of it. It’s great memories, and the whole thing, I think it’s great for hockey as well. There’s a lot of moving parts and a lot of people involved in making that decision, though, so we’ll just have to wait and see how things shake out. It’ll be a pretty hot topic here for the next little while.”

Connor McDavid was even more forceful in his desire to go.

“One hundred percent, NHL players should be there,” the 20-year-old told reporters. “I can’t imagine the Olympics without it.”