2022 Winter Olympics

NHL, players schedule more labor talks for next week

The NHL and NHL Players’ Association have scheduled another round of labor talks next week after concluding two days of negotiations in Toronto on Wednesday.

In an email to The Associated Press, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly wrote he wasn’t prepared to comment on what was discussed and whether the additional meetings reflect any signs of progress being made.

”I’m not sure the fact that we scheduled additional meetings reflects anything more than we have a lot of topic areas to discuss,” Daly wrote.

”We look forward to resuming discussions with the league next week.” the NHLPA said in a statement to The AP.

The current labor agreement runs through September 2022, after both sides last year elected not to use an opt-out clause that would have terminated the CBA this September.

There remains a sense of urgency in reaching an agreement to extend the current deal through either 2025 or 2026, which would mark the league’s longest period of labor peace in decades. The NHL has had seasons disrupted by lockouts in each of the past three decades, most recently in 2012-13, when the regular season was shortened from 82 to 48 games.

One of the more pressing issues, however, is whether the NHL elects to send players to compete in the 2022 Beijing Games after not participating in the 2018 Olympics in South Korea. The league participated in the five previous Olympics.

The NHL continues to be reluctant to reverse course, despite Olympic officials providing assurances of being ready to lift various major stumbling blocks during a meeting that included NHLPA representatives.

On Monday, Daly called the meeting ”positive,” but said the league continues to have ”valid reservations” over how Olympic participation disrupts its schedule by having to shut down the regular season for two weeks once every four years.

”We aren’t there yet. In fact, we aren’t even close to being there,” Daly said. ”At this point in time, we continue to believe that the negatives outweigh the positives.”

He raised another concern by suggesting the issue of Olympic participation might be resolved easier if it were tied to a labor agreement.

A person familiar with discussions told The AP that the subject of the 2022 Games was not discussed this week, and not expected to be brought up in talks next week. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the negotiations are private.

The NHLPA is in favor of going to China especially after the assurances provided by International Ice Hockey Federation chief Rene’ Fasel last week.

Among the long-standing issues Fasel addressed included paying for players’ travel and insurance costs. Another issue was providing the league and union access to video and still images to allow both to market its players.

NHLPA executive director Don Fehr questioned why the NHL can’t address the Beijing Games separately, rather than fold it into labor talks.

”I can’t figure out why anybody would not want to go and take advantage of this opportunity because it doesn’t come around every day,” Fehr said ”We think and have always thought that a matter like this should be addressed on its own merits, and it seems to us that the merits on this one are crystal clear.”

PHT Morning Skate: Protecting Pettersson; more on Zucker trade

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• Ken Campbell nails it in discussing the abuse thrown Elias Pettersson‘s way. Really, it applies not only to protecting Pettersson, but all star players. (The Hockey News)

• The Sedin Twins understand what Pettersson is going through. Unfortunately, their advice boils down to “you just gotta deal with it.” (Vancouver is Awesome)

• Believe it or not, the Sedin twins are still close friends. Who would have thought? (Although twins could get tired of each other, theoretically, so maybe it is impressive …) (Sportsnet)

• Need a connection between the NHL and the inescapable Coronavirus? Apparently the crisis is affecting the supply of sticks. Imagine a scenario where crusty hockey people live their random dream of wooden sticks making a brief comeback … (Boston Globe)

• Oilers fans winced at Connor McDavid hurting his knee. If they (and fans of the sport in general) want a slight silver lining, consider that McDavid claims it’s not related to his off-season injury. (Sportsnet)

• Mathieu Schneider came away from meetings regarding an Olympic return feeling “happy” from the NHLPA perspective. That might be a moot point if the league remains cool to the premise of participating in 2022, but it’s better than nothing. (TSN)

[NHL ON NBCSN: Ovechkin continues chase for 700 Thursday vs. Avalanche]

• During much of the season, the Penguins persisted with strong puck possession stats despite injuries. Adam Gretz details some discouraging recent trends, though. Then again, maybe generally defensively sound winger Jason Zucker could help a bit in that regard? (Pensburgh)

• Calen Addison ranks as one of the Wild’s most important returns in the Zucker trade. Corey Pronman breaks down what Minnesota is getting in the defensive prospect. (The Athletic, sub required)

• It’s tough to wrap your head around the idea of the Rangers actually buying out Henrik Lundqvist. Granted, that might be a pretty practical way to keep two younger goalie options. Blue Seat Blogs explains the potential pros and cons of such a buyout. (Blue Seat Blogs)

• Why the Maple Leafs should trade Tyson Barrie. (The Leafs Nation)

• Scroll through this interesting thread about how the 2012 NHL Draft ranks among the worst. Maybe the Blue Jackets were reasonable in rejecting the Islanders’ entire 2012 stock when Garth Snow came calling for Ryan Murray? (Benjamin Wendorf)

• Jaromir Jagr and Gordie Howe: two peas in a pod. (Featurd)

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

NHL cool to Olympic participation despite IIHF assurances

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The NHL remains reluctant to reverse course and compete at the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing despite new assurances from Olympic officials to lift various major stumbling blocks, which also have the backing of the league’s players.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly significantly tamped down hopes of the world’s best players returning to the Olympics for the first time since 2014 by referring to recent talks as being “very preliminary” and leaving open many unanswered questions.

“We aren’t there yet. In fact, we aren’t even close to being there,” Daly wrote in an email to The Associated Press on Monday. “At this point in time, we continue to believe that the negatives outweigh the positives.”

At the same time, Daly raised another concern by suggesting the issue of Olympic participation might be resolved easier if it were tied to ongoing negotiations to extend the league’s collective bargaining agreement with its players. The two sides are scheduled to spent the next two days in CBA talks in Toronto.

NHLPA executive director Don Fehr responded by telling The AP he hoped the NHL wasn’t moving the goal posts on the union in regards to the issue of Olympic participation, with the Beijing Games taking place before the current CBA expires.

“I can’t figure out why anybody would not want to go and take advantage of this opportunity because it doesn’t come around every day,” Fehr told The AP by phone.

“We think and have always thought that a matter like this should be addressed on its own merits, and it seems to us that the merits on this one are crystal clear, pellucidly clear,” he added.

The setback in discussions comes a week after NHL and NHLPA officials attended a meeting in New York where the International Ice Hockey Federation provided mostly verbal – but few written – assurances addressing many concerns that prompted the league to decline to participate at the Winter Games in South Korea. The NHL had participated in the previous five Olympics.

Among the long-standing issues IIHF chief Rene’ Fasel addressed included paying for players’ travel and insurance costs. Another issue was providing the league and union access to video and still images to allow both to market its players.

Daly called the meeting “positive,” but said the league continues to have “valid reservations” over how Olympic participation disrupts its schedule by having to shut down the regular season for two weeks once every four years.

Messages left with Fasel and the IIHF was not immediately returned.

Fehr was encouraged following the meeting.

“The impression I had coming out of the meeting was that there ought to be a way to get this done to everybody’s satisfaction,” Fehr said.

Fehr doubted the Olympics issue would be raised during talks this week, by saying, “the NHL needs some time to go through and digest and think through what happened at the last meeting, as we do.”

Though there’s no firm deadline yet set on the NHL sending players in 2022, Fehr hoped an agreement is reached well before Fasel’s term as IIHF chief expires in September.

Differences over Olympic participation have the potential of derailing talks after both sides showed good faith in September, when they ensured three more seasons of labor peace by not using an opt-out clause. Such a move would have terminated the existing CBA this September.

Anaheim Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf wasn’t surprised when informed how the NHL might attempt to fold Olympic participation into labor talks given how a large majority of players favor representing their respective countries.

“Why do you think that is?” Getzlaf told The AP with a laugh. “They’re a business. If they put that into negotiations, that means it’s a leverage chip for them that they’re going to try to use against us.”

New York Islanders NHLPA representative Anders Lee said the chance to compete in Beijing should be as important to the NHL as it is to the players.

“There’s a lot of things that go into this, and there’s a reason why China: It’s a draw,” Lee said. “It’s a great thing for our game. That’s why it’s so important to both sides.”

Fehr noted the two sides have enough issues that need to be settled in negotiations without having to introduce competing at Beijing into the mix. He did note, however, a desire to establish a long-term international calendar of events that would include Olympic participation and the revival of the league- and union-sponsored World Cup of Hockey, which was last played in 2016.

“We can only hope that as these discussions continue, whatever the initial reactions are will give way to the facts and circumstances,” he said. “My view, and this is a personal view, if you take advantage of the opportunities when they come.”

Daly responded by saying Fehr is entitled to his point of view regarding the value of NHL Olympic participation.

“But so are our owners,” Daly said. “We participated in five consecutive Olympic Games, beginning long before Don was involved in our league. We have a pretty good sense of the positives and negatives associated with participation.”

Bettman responds to IIHF president’s Olympic decision deadline

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The 2022 Beijing Olympics remains a hot topic between the NHL and NHLPA with the league seeing participation as disruptive and the players eager to represent their countries.

During his All-Star Weekend press conference, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said that while the league was comfortable with not going to Pyeongchang in 2018 he wouldn’t definitively shut the door on 2022.

“I can’t say that with certainty, not to give people false hope,” Bettman said. “I know the Players’ Association still maintains a strong preference for going. I know the IIHF still is focused on engaging with us and I think even wants to have a meeting at some point in the not too distant future. From our standpoint, we believe and our experience both with going to five Olympics and then not going to Pyeongchang tells us that going is extraordinarily disruptive to the season. I won’t take you through the litany of reasons why, you’ve all heard me say it. I know it maintains itself as a priority for the Players’ Association, but having said that we were very comfortable with not going Korea.”

IIHF president Rene Fasel said earlier this month that he’d like an answer from the NHL by August. Bettman isn’t ready to give him one any time soon.

“[Fasel] also said last summer he wanted an answer by December and he didn’t get one,” Bettman said. “We’re going to have to see. I actually think the deadline is really more one that we would have to impose, in terms of logistics. My guess is at a point in time we said we wanted to go and we could handle the timing of it, my guess is the IIHF could as well. That doesn’t mean that I don’t take Rene seriously, but as I said he already gave us one deadline and it came and went.”

Among the many logistics that need to be worked out if the NHL were to go includes the schedule, which is created well in advance of the season. When would Bettman see a potential deadline set by the league laid down? He isn’t sure.

“I don’t know. I’ll know it when I see it, when we get there,” he said. “Obviously, first and foremost, it has to do with releasing a schedule. That’s the game-changer one way or the other.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

IIHF president gives NHL deadline on Olympic participation decision

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IIHF president Rene Fasel has given the NHL and NHLPA a deadline to decide whether players will be at the 2022 Beijing Olympics.

Speaking at World Junior Championship this past weekend, Fasel said he would like an answer from Commissioner Gary Bettman by the end of August.

“We would like to have a decision as early as possible if they’re coming to Beijing – ‘Yes’ or ‘No,'” Fasel said. “In Pyeongchang there was a late ‘No.’ Especially the North American teams, U.S. and Canada, had some problems to find the players and to build up a good team.

“If there is a ‘No,’ these teams should have time to prepare a competitive team to go to the Olympics in 2022. We want to have an early answer from NHLPA and NHL if they’re coming or not.”

The NHL announced in April 2017 — 10 months before the opening ceremonies in Pyeongchang — that players would not be going to the Games in South Korea.

Nine countries have already qualified for the men’s tournament with the final three spots to be decided in August during the qualifying tournament. Fasel is hoping for an answer from the NHL before pucks drops.

“We are working on an early decision made by the NHL and NHLPA,” Fasel said. “We need to know before that.”

NHL players participated in five straight Games from 1998 to 2014, but the league passed on going to Pyeongchang in 2018 citing costs and having to shut down midseason for two weeks. The League has been looking into hosting another World Cup of Hockey, which was last held in Toronto in 2016. A 2020 edition was postponed due to labor uncertainty and last month Bettman announced there will be no tournament in 2021.

“The Olympics is a unique platform we can use, especially in Asia, with the best on best format,” said Fasel, who is set to step down as IIHF president in 2020. “Asia represents two-thirds of the world’s population. I consider Gary a smart person. At the end he will come, I hope.”

It’s clear that NHL players want to go to Beijing, but the owners have not been keen on the idea. We’ll see how big of a topic it becomes in the next round of Collective Bargaining Agreement talks. We’ll also wait and see just how serious Bettman and the NHLPA take this deadline from Fasel, especially knowing how much the IIHF wants NHL players to participate.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.