Even after the NHL announced that it wouldn’t be sending its players to PyeongChang for the 2018 Olympics, IIHF president Rene Fasel still held out hope. Maybe something could change over the summer. Maybe NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and the owners could be enticed to change their mind.
No dice. So here we are one month out before the first Olympic tournament without NHL players since 1994.
Where does this leave possible participation for Beijing 2022? According to Fasel, it’s his “mission” to get a deal done to get the NHL back involved.
“To have the best-on-best in the Olympics in Beijing, this is my mission to do it, to make this happen, but the problem is dollars,” Fasel said Thursday during the World Junior Championship in Buffalo. “How big will the pressure be from the [Players’ Association]? I would say the solution is in the hands of the players because without the players, what do we do? If they want to come to the Games, they have to say so.”
NHLPA head Donald Fehr told the AP that he wasn’t ready to open talks just yet to have Olympic participation included.
”I would like to believe that by the time we get there that the owners would have a much greater interest and understanding of the potential value that it could have,” said Fehr about the 2022 Games. ”Whether those discussions take place in collective bargaining or take place separately in discussing the international agenda or some combination of that, I think it’s too soon to say.”
It’s been clear how upset NHL players are about the league’s decision. But participation in the Olympics wasn’t part of the last CBA talks, which allowed the owner’s to control the decision-making process. When the IOC wouldn’t budge on the league’s demands, the owner’s walked away, even while Fasel secured the $15 million he promised for travel and insurance.
In a big early negotiating of his own, Fasel now says that that money earmarked for the 2018 Games won’t be there in four years.
“The IIHF cannot afford for 2022 the $15 million to cover the expenses of transportation and insurance,” said Fasel. “We will not be able to do it. The deal we negotiated before will not work for 2022.”
Of course, if the NHLPA pushes for future Olympic participation when CBA talks roll around the owners will want something in return. Keep escrow? Lower revenue splits? Something will have to give, and the reality is it won’t come down to how much Fasel wants the NHL involved again. Look how successful that was this time.
”It seems like a big opportunity to me and I would hope and I would believe the owners share that view,” Fehr said. ”I see a lot of path, but I think it’s much too soon to make any judgments about the likelihood of it.”
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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.