Rene Fasel

IIHF encouraged by NHL’s potential return to Olympics in ’22

Leave a comment

International Ice Hockey Federation chief Rene Fasel is encouraged after learning the NHL’s pending labor deal opens the possibility of the world’s best players returning to the Olympics.

Aside from the uncertainty raised by the coronavirus pandemic, Fasel told The Associated Press he doesn’t foresee any major stumbling blocks that could derail negotiations leading up to the 2022 Beijing Games.

“No, I don’t think there’s a deal-breaker,” he said Tuesday. “There are a lot of challenges. But I think in principle, I would say the news that that’s in the CBA, for me and especially international hockey, is very good news.”

Fasel spoke a day after the NHL and NHL Players’ Association tentatively agreed to extend the collective bargaining agreement for four years, which would run through the 2025-26 season.

A person with direct knowledge of the agreement told the AP it includes a provision that would allow NHL players to compete at the next two Winter Games, including the 2026 Olympics in Italy. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the contents of the CBA were not released.

The league participated in five consecutive Olympics before skipping the 2018 Games in South Korea.

In order to return, the NHL and its players would first have to resolve various outstanding issues — including health insurance, travel costs and marketing rights — with the IIHF and the International Olympic Committee.

Travel costs alone to Pyeongchang two years ago were projected to be $15 million, which the IOC refused to pay. The NHL was also denied control of using Olympic game footage to promote the league and players. Another concern was weighing the benefits of shutting down the regular season for two weeks only to have Olympic games being played in the early morning hours in North America due to the 14-hour time difference; a similar time difference would be present for 2022.

Fasel acknowledged the NHL’s concerns and said he was encouraged after the parties had what he called “a very positive meeting” in New York in early February. Follow-up discussions were placed on hold due to the pandemic.

“We didn’t give up after Pyeongchang. We understood the situation, how it was at that time. No bad feelings,” he said. “We really hope it will come in ’22, and we are ready to work and find a solution.”

The NHL and union have declined to discuss the proposed CBA until it is approved, which could happen as early as Friday.

Carolina Hurricanes veteran forward Justin Williams called the Olympic proposal “really attractive.”

“I just think it’s great for the game of hockey to be able to showcase the best players,” Williams said. “The Olympics are a special event in itself, but having NHL players there, even as actual players, we love to see the best on best. That’s pretty special.”

USA Hockey executive director Pat Kelleher said he was thrilled by the possibility of being to put together a team with NHL players, which could include rising young stars such as Auston Matthews, Jack Eichel, Johnny Gaudreau and Seth Jones.

“It’s exciting to consider the team of Americans that could represent our country in Beijing, and we applaud the efforts of the NHL and the NHLPA in making this a possibility,” Kelleher said.

The NHL previously tamped down the chances of returning to Olympic play.

“At this point in time, we believe that the negatives outweigh the positives,” deputy commissioner Bill Daly said following the February meeting in New York. Daly did raise the prospect of folding Olympic participation into CBA talks.

NHLPA executive director Don Fehr had a different take on talks with the IOC and IIHF, saying: “The impression I had coming out of the meeting was there ought to be a way to get this done to everybody’s satisfaction.”

Fehr previously described the decision to skip the 2018 Games as a lost opportunity to showcase the sport.

Fasel, whose term as IIHF president was extended a year to September 2021, praised the NHL and players for addressing the Olympics in the CBA.

“We do not have leverage, and we just have to get the PA and the NHL to understand this is good for the promotion of the sport, especially in Asia,” Fasel said. “I’m happy that in the end they understand this is important for the development of ice hockey in the future.”

IIHF president gives NHL deadline on Olympic participation decision

Getty Images
1 Comment

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.

MORE INTERNATIONAL HOCKEY COVERAGE:
Gretzky: NHL players in Olympics ‘much better for everyone’
There will be no World Cup of Hockey during 2021 season
Kuznetsov gets four-year ban from IIHF for cocaine
World Anti-Doping Agency imposes 4-year ban on Russia

————

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.

Rene Fasel’s 2022 Olympic ‘mission’ faces same challenges as PyeongChang

Getty Images
2 Comments

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.”

Stick-tap Mike Ashmore for the audio

————

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 says getting NHL players to 2018 Olympics ‘will not be easy’

12 Comments

According to International Ice Hockey Federation president Rene Fasel, getting NHLers to participate at the 2018 Olympics “will not be easy”.

Fasel told The Associated Press that the process of consulting players and officials over a deal for the 2018 games in Pyeongchang, South Korea has begun.

“Our goal is to bring the NHL to Korea,” said Fasel adding its “long process” and “will not be easy.”

There is currently no deal in place between the IIHF, NHL and NHLPA for players to participate at the 2018 Olympics.

The story notes a deal for the 2014 games was not reached until seven months prior to the Olympics starting in Sochi, Russia.

The NHL has been sending its players to the Olympics since 1998.

Report: World Cup to be announced during all star break

15 Comments

According to TSN’s Rick Westhead the NHL and NHLPA will announce the return of the world cup of hockey during the NHL all star break, which takes place Jan. 22-26.

Westhead added one of the tweaks to the tournament will include a best-of-three final.

In November Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston reported potential changes to the format.

Rumored changes to the tournament include two all star teams in addition to the top six hockey nations (Canada, U.S., Sweden, Finland, Russia and Czech Republic).

One all star squad will be made up of the best players from Slovakia, Switzerland, Latvia, Germany and Slovenia, among others.

The make-up of the second all star team is yet to be determined.

Last month IIHF president Rene Fasel weighed in on the proposed changes.

“To be very honest, I like the idea. If we go with No. 7 and 8 with normal matching teams, we have that in the Olympics, we have that in the Canada Cup, we have that in the World Championships. Now having this selection. There’s a discussion about having European selection, it would be a great team with non-participating European teams building up a team,” said Fasel. “Then the second one is North American selection. That can be a very interesting for the hockey fans, great. That could be something. It is still an idea. There’s a rumor. We don’t know yet what they’re going to do. Personally, I like it very much.”

Fasel may like it, but players we here at PHT talked to were skeptical.

“It would be hard to play for some kind of different team, but I guess at the same time, a lot of the small countries, they’re producing really good players,” said Olli Jokinen, who’s represented Finland internationally on a number of occasions. “Players like that, a lot of time they don’t get a chance to play tournaments like that.”

Added U.S. Olympian, and Toronto Maple Leafs forward, James van Riemsdyk: “There’s more pride it in, for the players, when you’re representing your country. I think it’s fun when you have the different countries like you have every year in one of these tournaments there’s a big upset and that’s what makes it fun.

“I think it’s more fun when you have the countries (competing).”

Toronto is expected to be one the venues for the 2016 tournament.