Timeline to the demise of NHL participation in the Olympics

Sochi, Russia – February 22 – SSOLY- In third period action, USA and Toronto Maple leaf players Phil Kessel (left) and James van Riemsdyk look unhappy on the American bench.<br>At the Winter Olympics in Sochi, USA lost 5-0 to Finland in the bronze medal match in Men’s Ice Hockey at the Bolshoy Ice Dome.<br>February 22, 2014 (Richard Lautens/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Sochi, Russia – February 22 – SSOLY- In third period action, USA and Toronto Maple leaf players Phil Kessel (left) and James van Riemsdyk look unhappy on the American bench.
At the Winter Olympics in Sochi, USA lost 5-0 to Finland in the bronze medal match in Men’s Ice Hockey at the Bolshoy Ice Dome.
February 22, 2014 (Richard Lautens/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Like the captain of the Titanic, we should have seen this iceberg coming.

The NHL’s decision to opt-out of the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea was a story being written before the players even took their skates off in Sochi.

Here’s how it all played out through the media from 2014 to Monday’s fateful announcement.

• Feb. 6, 2014: Our story starts with the late Philadelphia Flyers owner, Ed Snyder, and his disapproval of Claude Giroux being left off the Canadian Olympic team.

A decision which left Snyder apoplectic, “Well it’s a farce. He’s one of the best players in the league. It’s ridiculous. He’s better than half the guys on that team.”

As the Q&A went on, Snyder dug in his heels in on the league’s participation in the Olympic Games.

“If I had my way, we’d never go to the Olympics,” said Snyder. “We’re the only league that breaks up our season. Basketball plays in the winter, but they play Olympics in the summer. It’s ridiculous. The whole thing’s ridiculous … I think it’s ridiculous to take three weeks off or however long it is in the middle of the season. It screws up everything.

“There’s no benefit to us whatsoever. If anything, I can only see negatives. The players want to play. The Players’ Association has a lot to say about it. As an owner, I think it’s ridiculous.”

When asked if he was in favor of a World Cup over the Olympics, Snyder said, “I’d like to see anything other than the Olympics. I mean, I hate‘em.”

Snyder was the most vocal owner in 2014 when it came to the group’s view of the Olympics. He may be gone now but his words still resonate among the ownership.

• Jan. 27, 2014: The games in Sochi had yet to begin, but questions about 2018 started to swirl.

In a story by the Associated Press, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly speaks about the leagues disapproval of pausing a season for an Olympic tournament not in North America.

”The North American experiences have been better than far-away Olympics for a host reasons, including exposure,” Daly said in an interview with the AP. ”When you have a North American-based Olympics, you can have a shorter period without NHL games. We’re going to have the longest break we’ve ever had, and that could interrupt momentum for teams and have an effect on their competitiveness based on how many players they have playing, and how many injuries they have in Sochi.”

Would the NHL let its players compete in the Winter Olympics only when they’re held in North America?

”I don’t think that’s where we would go, but I wouldn’t rule it out,” Daly said.

Players, seemingly universally, want to play in the Winter Olympics for the sixth straight time in 2018 in South Korea – and beyond.

The NHL and NHL Players’ Association have been in talks about bringing back the World Cup of Hockey that wouldn’t conflict with the league’s regular season. Daly said the NHL and NHLPA are both in favor of creating a uniform international calendar

”A World Cup should clearly play a part in that,” Daly said.

• Feb. 5, 2014: The AP reports on a meeting of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) prior to Sochi that would have lasting consequences in the negotiations for the NHL’s participation in 2018.

Committee members urged each other not to ‘pay’ for the participation of the major North American sports leagues. This is not limited to the NHL. It includes MLB (who doesn’t allow Olympic participation) and the NBA.

This isn’t ‘pay’ inulln the sense of salaries. It’s more like subsidies for costs of sending NHL players to the games.

SOCHI, RUSSIA – FEBRUARY 23: Head coach of Sweden Par Marts looks on during the medal ceremony of the Men’s Ice Hockey Gold Medal match between Canada and Sweden on Day 16 of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics at Bolshoy Ice Dome on February 23, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by John Berry/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA – FEBRUARY 23: Head coach of Sweden Par Marts looks on during the medal ceremony of the Men’s Ice Hockey Gold Medal match between Canada and Sweden on Day 16 of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics at Bolshoy Ice Dome on February 23, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by John Berry/Getty Images)

• Feb. 7, 2014: In an article from Yahoo! Sports, players talk about the thrill of playing in the Olympics.

On the flip side, not surprisingly, ownership and the NHL brass voice their displeasure:

“I’m not thrilled about shutting down in February, which is a massive month for us here in Phoenix with out-of-town travelers, but it is what is,” said Anthony LeBlanc, a co-owner of the Coyotes and their president and chief executive officer. “You have to take the good with the bad. The bad is that we’re shutting down, which none of us are thrilled about. The good is, it’s a pretty exciting event.”

“I don’t think from a business standpoint – from a tangible business standpoint – it has any positive impact on our business at all,” said NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly at the World Hockey Summit in Toronto in 2010. “And in some cases, it has a negative impact.”

Yahoo! Sports puts ownership views into one perspective using an event that changed the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Olympics also create conflicts of interest. … What comes first – team or country? NHL executives and coaches deal with their own players for Olympic teams. [Steven] Stamkos’ GM is Steve Yzerman, the executive director of Team Canada. He put Stamkos on the Canada roster and snubbed another Lightning star, Martin St-Louis, ticking him off. When the doctor didn’t clear Stamkos for Sochi, Yzerman decided to take St-Louis after all. How do you feel if you’re Tampa Bay owner Jeff Vinik?

If you recall, St-Louis requested and received a trade after the games.

The post mentions the possible business ventures on the horizon that can benefit both the players and the league if they work together.

The owners want to cash in on international hockey themselves. So do the players. The NHL has an international business plan, and the league and the union have a joint International Committee. The new collective bargaining agreement says they “shall continue to work together to jointly create and exploit other international projects and initiatives.” There will be more NHL games overseas. The World Cup likely will come back before the 2015-16 season. A champions’ league concept could be started, pitting NHL teams against top European teams.

Joint negotiations is another huge issue that will come to the surface in the years that follow. As we’ve all learned, the NHL and NHLPA playing nicely together is not something they do well.

• Feb. 10, 2014: Lightning GM and Hockey Canada Executive Director Steve Yzerman weighed in on players playing in the Olympic games:

• Feb. 11, 2014: Reuters reports the NHL will have a decision on the 2018 game within six months of the Sochi games.

Yes, six months.

Bill Daly tells reporters in Sochi he ‘expects a much quicker resolution’ in regards to NHL involvement in PyeongChang. “It should not take all that long, but I would have said the same thing coming out of 2010.”

(Note: The players and NHL did not come to an agreement on participation in Sochi until Jul. 19, 2013 – after a lockout shortened season; a little over six months before the games.)

“We will have a broader discussion with the players’ association on international competition and what we are doing internationally,” continues Daly, “that discussion is under way so I would anticipate a quick resolution in respect to the Olympics, maybe six months.”

The article adds the league’s business plan includes expansion into Asia, but ‘that does not make participation in the 2018 Pyeongchang Games, or any other future Olympics, a guarantee.’

• Feb. 17-18, 2014: While in Sochi, Gary Bettman, NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr, and Bill Daly weigh in on player participation in 2018.

The reason why the NHL doesn’t ‘want to expand to South Korea’ will come to light in the next year.

• Apr. 14, 2014: The games in Sochi are over, and the NHL is getting back to normal operations.

The New York Times publishes a story titled: ‘NHL teams suffer post-Olympic blues.’ This story gives the owners a piece of ammunition to use in their fight against Olympic participation.

Essentially, teams who sent seven players or more to Sochi saw a drop in offensive production; thereby hurting the teams in a playoff chase when the season resumed.

It also makes note of the injuries to Olympians such as: Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Evgeni Malkin and David Backes. Those are big names with a a lot of dollars behind them sitting on the sidelines.

SOCHI, RUSSIA – FEBRUARY 23: Chris Kunitz #14 of Canada crashes into the boards during the Men’s Ice Hockey Gold Medal match against Sweden on Day 16 of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics at Bolshoy Ice Dome on February 23, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA – FEBRUARY 23: Chris Kunitz #14 of Canada crashes into the boards during the Men’s Ice Hockey Gold Medal match against Sweden on Day 16 of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics at Bolshoy Ice Dome on February 23, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

• Oct. 15, 2014: John Shannon of Sportsnet ramps up the World Cup of Hockey talk as the NHL, NHLPA and IIHF meet in New York.

• Jan. 5, 2015: The NHL and IIHF remain focused on the World Cup of Hockey, but Fasel ‘tipped the IOC’s hand’ in regards to the 2022 games location, which had not yet been announced.

“I think China is favoured there to win that race, so ’22 will go to China,” said Fasel, who is on the IOC executive board, to the Canadian Press. “So to be very honest, after five times participating in the Olympics, this one will be a bigger challenge.”

As the CP reports, in 2015 ‘there are a total of 109 registered adult male hockey players, 38 indoor and four outdoor hockey rinks in South Korea, according to the IIHF. China has a total of 118 adult male players, 58 indoor and 43 outdoor rinks.’ Albeit it slight, the advantage goes to China as far as preparation for ice hockey.

It also helps that China has a population of over one billion people; whereas, South Korea hovers around fifty million people.

Rene Fasel, speaking for the IIHF, share the NHL’s desire to grow the game in ‘non-traditional countries,’ and bringing NHL’ers to those regions ‘couldn’t hurt.’

“(NHL) players want to go to the Olympics,” Fasel added. “We definitely need players there. They want to go to the Olympics.”

• Jan. 24, 2015: The World Cup of Hockey was officially announced at the All-Star Game in Columbus.

Bettman was questioned on the relationship between the World Cup (an NHL event) and the Olympics.

Bill Daly brings up the financial obligations needed to send players to Sochi and his skepticism that the same would be there for South Korea.

Daly’s statement on costs goes to the Feb. 2014 meeting of the IOC and the urging by members to not ‘pay’ North American sports leagues for their participation.

The attention of the NHL goes one hundred percent to the World Cup of Hockey.

Nick Cotsonika, writing for Yahoo! Sports, remarks the NHL and NHLPA see the World Cup of Hockey as “the first step in what NHL commissioner Gary Bettman called their ‘joint vision for international hockey.”

It’s echoed by then NHL COO John Collins, “The aspiration is to build a global brand and a global business.”

“Though Bettman said [the World Cup] had “no bearing” on Olympic participation, this could lead to the end of the NHL in the Olympics,” writes Cotsonika. “The NHL’s owners didn’t want to go to Sochi in 2014, and they don’t want to go to Pyeongchang in 2018 … The problem for them is, the players do. [The owners] private hope is that these events will be so successful that the Olympics will become less important to the players.

”I don’t know if you can necessarily replace the Olympics,’ said Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron, who has won two Olympic gold medals with Team Canada.”

What’s fascinating is that, according to Cotsonika, the NHL AND NHLPA ‘debated internally, discussed [the World Cup] with national federations and ran it past fans in market research. They wanted more NHL players to participate, and this way they expect about 90 percent of the players to be from the NHL. They didn’t want the Big Six, then a big gap to the seventh and eighth nations.’

SOCHI, RUSSIA – FEBRUARY 22: Patrick Kane #88 and Ryan Kesler #17 of the United States look on during a stoppage in the first period against Finland during the Men’s Ice Hockey Bronze Medal Game on Day 15 of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics at Bolshoy Ice Dome on February 22, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA – FEBRUARY 22: Patrick Kane #88 and Ryan Kesler #17 of the United States look on during a stoppage in the first period against Finland during the Men’s Ice Hockey Bronze Medal Game on Day 15 of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics at Bolshoy Ice Dome on February 22, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)

“We have concluded that this will provide the most compelling format and the most competitive and entertaining hockey with great storylines,” Bettman said.

One group they either didn’t consult enough, or give a complete bill of goods to is the players. That’s on the Players Association more than the NHL.

Cotsonika adds, “Bettman said they expect to sell out every game. They expect to sell TV rights and sponsorships and merchandise, generating more than $100 million in revenue. The NHL and the NHLPA will share the costs and split the profit.”

Put a pin in that statement. It’s going to come back and haunt the NHL.

One other piece of information that Cotsonika points out is the lack of business growth the NHL perceives it has received from participating in the games, but doesn’t take responsibility for failing to capitalize on it.

When the NHL first sent its players to the Olympics in 1998, it hoped the exposure would boost the business. But the league found that the Olympics had little to no impact – and even had a negative impact in some cases, especially when the Olympics were outside North America – and the owners grew tired of shutting down their season and risking their assets for someone else’s tournament.

At the same time, the NHL did not market itself well in established European markets, let alone nascent ones. Teams would cross the pond for exhibitions and regular-season games in September and October. Bettman would stay home to raise a Stanley Cup banner. The media would stay home to cover the start of the season. Sponsors would stay home, too.

The World Cup, not the Olympics, is supposed to be the remedy for that.

• Jun. 6, 2015: Stanley Cup final address by Bettman includes brief note on Olympics.

• Aug. 19, 2015: Alex Ovechkin doesn’t care what the NHL says, he’s going to play in the 2018 Olympic games.

• Sep. 9, 2015: Elliotte Friedman reports:

Remember: One billion people > Fifty million people

• Sep. 14, 2015: The idea of a Ryder Cup style tournament in the 2017-18 season is floated.

Not only would it be held mid-season, it could also be held overseas! You know what else is held mid-season, overseas and in 2018? The Winter Olympics. HEY-O!

Only difference: the owners make money off of one event versus another.

• Nov. 9, 2015: Bettman publicly puts off the Olympic decision, saying it doesn’t need to be made for another year.

(Wasn’t this supposed to be done six months after Sochi?)

• Jan. 30, 2016: Bettman speaks at the All-Star Game in Nashville:

Bettman said the last discussion the NHL had with the IIHF was a few months ago. There are issues with travel and insurance expenses that have to be address with the IIHF and the IOC, and Bettman said no decision was going to be made on the Games in the near future – especially with the NHL’s focus on its own World Cup of Hockey.

SOCHI, RUSSIA – FEBRUARY 21: Referees break the start of a fight during the Men’s Ice Hockey Semifinal Playoff between Sweden and Finland on Day 14 of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics at Bolshoy Ice Dome on February 21, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by John Berry/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA – FEBRUARY 21: Referees break the start of a fight during the Men’s Ice Hockey Semifinal Playoff between Sweden and Finland on Day 14 of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics at Bolshoy Ice Dome on February 21, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by John Berry/Getty Images)

• Mar. 4, 2016: Donald Fehr, head of the NHLPA, speaks about the lack of influence the World Cup has on the players’ desire to participate in the Olympics.

“We’ve never thought – and I don’t think the NHL believes either, or has never suggested to us – that this tournament will have any impact, in any meaningful way, on an Olympics decision,” said Fehr. “Players have always wanted to play in the Olympics. That hasn’t changed.”

And now the posturing really begins for the players. The NHL has been clear of what they want. The PA is starting to fire back, even if ever so subtly.

• Apr. 23, 2016: IIHF president Rene Fasel gets real about the money, calling it a ‘difficult financial situation.’

The IOC officially decided to not pay the transportation and insurance costs associated with bringing NHL players to the Olympic games. This is the first time in since the Winter Olympics in Nagano in 1998 the IOC won’t chip in.

The responsibility to cover those costs fall now on the IIHF and the NHL … OK, pretty much entirely on the IIHF. We know how our owners do not like to part with their money.

“We had a meeting with the NHL last week and the prognosis is not really good,” said Fasel. “Our wish is to have the best players. [But the IOC] not covering the cost as they did at the last five Olympic Games puts us in a difficult financial situation … it is even more difficult than before.”

The notion that the NHL is more interested in Beijing in 2022 than Pyeonchang is addressed again. Fasel is reported to have ‘warned’ the NHL earlier in the year that the league cannot “pick and choose” between Olympics.

We’re sure the NHL brass was quakin’ in their boots.

• May 16, 2016: Fasel continues to temper expectations on player involvement saying, it “doesn’t look very good.”

From Puck Daddy:

Said Fasel, “In the foreseeable budget that we have, we have to find $10 million. I think the NHL is doing way enough. (NHL commissioner Gary Bettman) said to me, ‘Rene, we don’t pay the insurance and transportation.’ So we have to find somebody to pay that. For us, it will be very difficult. We have to find ways to bring the money together. It’s not easy, but hopefully we will make it.”

Anyone else get the feeling Fasel takes order from Bettman? Just sayin’.

• May 30, 2016: Stanley Cup Final media availability of Commissioner Bettman. Here are the quick hits from those that covered it.

The most important Tweet to come out of this presser is from Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet.

If the owners want costs covered by someone else in order to release players to go, then that’s the priority for the IIHF.

Put another pin in this one.

• Sep. 15, 2016: Alex Ovechkin reaffirms his decision to play in the 2018 Olympics in an interview prior to the World Cup.

Ovechkin also goes on to criticize the World Cup saying it is ‘good for the game, but not good for’ NHL players.

“There are 82 games plus playoffs, and then the World Cup. We’re not going to have any time to relax. Or recover our bodies, if we’re injured. But it’s great for fans. Great for hockey,” continued Ovechkin in an article by Puck Daddy.

He added the World Cup’s format, with “orphaned” NHL players from Europe, cannot be compared to the Olympic Games.

Ovechkin agreed with the NHL’s assessment that ‘the best players are here,’ but he echoed what Patrice Bergeron said on Jan. 24, 2015: “It’s not the Olympics.”

• Sep. 17-29, 2016: World Cup of Hockey

SOCHI, RUSSIA – FEBRUARY 21: Drew Doughty #8 of Canada falls to the ice going for the puck against the United States during the Men’s Ice Hockey Semifinal Playoff on Day 14 of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics at Bolshoy Ice Dome on February 21, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA – FEBRUARY 21: Drew Doughty #8 of Canada falls to the ice going for the puck against the United States during the Men’s Ice Hockey Semifinal Playoff on Day 14 of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics at Bolshoy Ice Dome on February 21, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

• Sep. 24, 2016: Puck Daddy reports the NHL isn’t concerned with World Cup attendance and revenues.

Go back to the pin on Jan. 24, 2016 where Nick Cotsonika writes, “Bettman said they expect to sell out every game. They expect to sell TV rights and sponsorships and merchandise, generating more than $100 million in revenue. The NHL and the NHLPA will share the costs and split the profit.”

The World Cup doesn’t sell out every game, but Bettman remained unfazed, “Monday afternoon, people have to work,” he said of the Team Europe vs. Team Czech Republic game that was by far the worst attended of the tournament. “It’s about what we expected. The attendance for this tournament has been very strong. Remember, playing 16 or 17 games in a two-week period, there aren’t a whole lot of cities that can host that.”

“If you’ve ever been to a world championship or an Olympics, the afternoon games with the teams that are perceived to be less marquee, our games were much more well-attended than tournaments I’ve been to, by a long stretch,” Bettman added.

When the World Cup was first brought up, the league believed strongly that having the tournament in a city like Toronto was supposed to be the way to guaranteed success.

That’s not the kicker. Again, from Puck Daddy:

Overall, Bettman said the focus on the World Cup of Hockey shouldn’t be on how much revenue those fans, their merchandise or the tournament’s sponsors have generated, refusing to clarify how much the NHL and the NHLPA are making from this event.

“The answer is not as much as you would speculate or think, because the expenses are extraordinary,” he said. “But it’s not material. We’re a $4 billion-plus business. What we’re doing here for these two weeks isn’t about the money, it’s about growing the game. And it’s also about creating a buzz and excitement for the start of our season.”

Suddenly the NHL isn’t concerned about the income? That’s odd.

Instead they choose to dump money into an event as a way to try to appease players out of playing in the Olympics under the guise they’re creating buzz and bringing in more fans.

The World Cup was a niche tournament for established hockey fans. The Olympics brings in new people to the fold.

But, then again, the Olympic games don’t make the owners any cash, and apparently neither does the World Cup.

• Sep. 27, 2016: Rene Fasel is slightly more optimistic about NHL participation.

“I think it is a 50-50 chance,” Fasel said in an interview with the AP.

As for the NHL? Not so much.

In the same article from the AP, Bill Daly says, “Time is very short to make a decision and I’m not sure there has been a lot of progress made in the past six months, and I’m not sure there’s any prospect for progress being made. On the basis on that, I’m more negative today than I was two weeks ago.”

Daly also weighs in on the 2022 Beijing Games, “When the IOC awarded the Beijing Games, it certainly created a bigger opportunity than we thought existed potentially before. But it is also possible that you don’t go to one Olympics and you do go to the other. I don’t think anybody has ruled that out as a possibility.”

(Daly must not have been listening when Fasel issued his ‘pick and choose’ threat.)

The position the IIHF and Rene Fasel is even more tenuous trying to make up for the financial shortfall left by the IOC’s lack of subsidies. As the AP puts it, Fasel ‘intends to ”beg” for $10 million to cover expenses for NHL players to be at the 2018 Olympics.’

Oh. Begging. That’s … something.

Fasel’s plan is to ask for money from the individual Olympic committees and hockey federations of the nations with a hockey team in the event.

The worst thing Fasel considers is using ‘some of the $40 million it gets from the IOC every four years and make cuts from its development programs for boys and girls.’

You know, the reverse-Robin Hood: Take from the kids and give to the pros.

On the same day, Daly weighed in on the World Cup and Olympic participation from a business perspective.

“Olympic participation hasn’t done a lot for the National Hockey League, and for the clubs. It’s obviously a big global stage, and probably the top global stage. But it hasn’t translated to our business,” said Daly in a post by Puck Daddy.

“The financial opportunity has been greater here than it has been for our owners at the Olympics, historically, said Daly. “Having said that, in the entire scheme of things, it’s a relatively minor financial opportunity.”

Technically, he’s not wrong. The owners and the NHL as a whole don’t make money off the Olympics. They might see a bump in attendance following the games, but nothing that’s going to drive up their bottom line.

Keep in mind what Nick Cotsonika pointed out on Jan. 24, 2015, the NHL failed to capitalize on any overseas momentum generated from the Winter Games.

However, the most important quote from Daly comes in regards to if the IOC suddenly decided to cover the costs: “It changes the current state of affairs, but it might not change the result.”

Add your third pin to that statement.

Daly also addressed Ovechkin’s decision to play in the games regardless of the NHL’s decision.

From Puck Daddy:

Daly said that while Ovechkin is one of the NHL’s biggest stars, it would be up to the Capitals to decide whether or not he’d be allowed to leave for the Olympics.

“I don’t have a league reaction to that. If that became a prevailing view of a group of players, or a significant group of players, I might have a different view. But at this point it’s a single superstar player who will have a contract with one of clubs, and the club will handle that within its own discretion,” he said.

SOCHI, RUSSIA – FEBRUARY 21: Sidney Crosby #87 of Canada falls to the ice against Cam Fowler #3 of the United States in the first period during the Men’s Ice Hockey Semifinal Playoff against the United States on Day 14 of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics at Bolshoy Ice Dome on February 21, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA – FEBRUARY 21: Sidney Crosby #87 of Canada falls to the ice against Cam Fowler #3 of the United States in the first period during the Men’s Ice Hockey Semifinal Playoff against the United States on Day 14 of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics at Bolshoy Ice Dome on February 21, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

• Oct. 7, 2016: IOC president Christophe Dubi sets a deadline of Jan. 15, 2017 for the NHL to decide if they’re in or out of Pyeongchang.

Deadlines? Pfft. The NHL laughs at deadlines…unless they set them.

On the same day, Alex Prewitt of SI.com published a Q&A with Capitals owner Ted Leonsis where he cheers for the World Cup (because he gets a cut), and provides his support of Ovechkin to play in the Olympics (because he wants to be Ovi’s best friend).

“Many of the players love playing for their country and the Olympics. You just saw that with the World Cup,” said Leonsis. “It was a meaningful tournament, and the players played really, really hard, and the ones who lost were incredibly disappointed, and the team that won celebrated like it was an important victory.

“I think it’s always a question of alignment on players, union, the league, owners. That’s the pecking order, and they have to work it out and decide.”

(Look at that ‘pecking order.’ Leonsis puts the league and ownership last. HA!)

Leonsis continues to tell a story about meeting the Ovechkin’s family and their impressing upon him how important the Olympics are to his family. He states he will ‘always do what’s in Alex’s best interest.’

“If Alex Ovechkin says this is really important to me to go represent and play for my country, I’m going to support him,” Leonsis continues. ” What’s the worst that could happen? We’ll get fined or something. I hope it doesn’t get to that. But I’ve got to have my captain’s back, and I will.

Leonis goes on to remark that the NHL is ‘a players’ league.’ Then adds that players have to ask themselves: ‘is it good for the game? Is it growing the game?’

“There’s the risk of injury. They have to weigh all of that. The union has to weigh all of that,” Leonsis adds. “The stakes get higher every four years. There’s more revenue. The players get paid more money.

“It’s a big business. And so I think it’s almost every four years, you have to have that gut check, and the union and the league and the players and the owners, we all have a voice.

“But to me, the overriding voice is of the players.”

On the face, Leonsis’s message is saccharine with all that ‘voice of the players’ nonsense. He doesn’t want to piss off his superstar that could head to the KHL for a bajillion dollars at any time.

Underneath the surface, Leonsis points out key arguments the owners have: injury risk to players they’ve invested a lot of money in, and how much potential revenue the owners risk by shutting down in the middle of the season.

Leonsis may not be as forceful as Ed Snyder was back in 2014, but he’s got the same complaints.

Oct. 25, 2016: John Shannon of Sportsnet confirms the NHL and NHLPA are in South Korea looking at the Olympic venues.

• Nov. 15, 2016: Rene Fasel reveals the IIHF found money to cover the insurance costs and transportation for the NHL’ers to South Korea and it should no longer be an issue.

We don’t know from where or how he got the money. “We found, more or less, the money to finance it, the transportation and insurance, and we will see,” said Fasel on TSN radio.”

Fasel remains optimistic-ish about the NHL’s participation, leaving it at a ’50-50′ chance as he said earlier.

Fasel added the IIHF, NHL and reps from USA Hockey and Hockey Canada were meeting the following day to address outstanding issues as the NHL continues to weigh the decision.

Time to grab another pin from earlier: start with May 30, 2016.

Elliotte Friedman tweeted “Bettman makes it clear teams are not willing to shut down season for 2018 Olympics unless travel and insurance costs are paid for as in past.”

YAY! It all works out because Fasel found the money.

Or does it?

Grab the pin from Sep. 27, 2016.

Bill Daly commented that if the IOC were to come up with the money for the travel and insurance expenses, “It changes the current state of affairs, but it might not change the result.”

The NHL had their mind made up by this point. That’s why their next move isn’t too surprising.

• Nov. 16, 2016: The NHL reportedly offers the NHLPA the opportunity to go to the Olympics IF they agree to extend the current CBA.

Since the most recent iteration of the CBA went into effect, players have complained openly about escrow.

This is a crafty negotiating move by the NHL by pitting the Olympics against the opportunity to negotiate for more money sooner.

Puck Daddy addresses the timeline of the current CBA: “The current CBA, which was negotiated during a lockout that wiped out almost half the 2012-13 season, expires on Sept. 15, 2022. Both the NHL and NHLPA have the option to opt out of the current deal in 2020. If the league decides to do this, it needs to notify the NHLPA by Sept. 1, 2019. If the Players’ Association wants to opt out, it must tell the league by Sept. 19, 2019.”

• Nov. 17, 2016: All knowing Bob McKenzie adds additional detail on the NHL’s proposal.

• Nov. 23, 2016: The World Cup of Hockey wasn’t a financial success for the players involved.

Ken Campbell of The Hockey News reported on approximate figures the players took home:

[T]he players who played in the World Cup of Hockey have agreed to be paid 70 percent of their share of the profits from the tournament, while the other 30 percent will go to the players in the NHL who didn’t play.

Each of the 184 players who was on a World Cup roster projected to to be paid between $75,000 and $80,000 (U.S.), while players who spent all 186 days on an NHL roster last season will be paid about $10,000 each. Players who were not on an NHL roster for the entire season will be paid a pro-rated amount. Players who were named to World Cup rosters and were injured before the World Cup will get less than those who played, but more than those who were not named to a roster.

On top of that, players on Team Canada will split another $500,000 in prize money for winning the tournament, with an additional $500,000 going to Hockey Canada. The players on Team Europe will split $250,000 for finishing second, with another $250,000 being split among each of the European federations that made up the team, with the amount being pro-rated based on the number of players from each federation who were members of Team Europe.

Campbell adds, “[R]egardless of what the final numbers are, the World Cup was not quite the cash cow that was originally predicted. A total profit of less than $40 million is significantly lower than was projected when the event was first conceived, perhaps as much as 50 percent lower.”

The NHLPA and the players have to take some of the blame for this. They bought in to the grand vision of the NHL when past ventures showed the league had mismanaged other opportunities.

The NHL maintains they’re laying the groundwork for the future. But really, who is excited for the next World Cup? Especially when the rumors are Team North America is being done away with.

• Dec. 2, 2016: The NHLPA formally rejects the NHL’s offer.

NHLPA executive director Don Fehr stated ‘the players, primarily the excutive board, showed no interest in the idea.’ Fehr goes on to add he’s hopeful the two sides can come to an agreement on the Olympics.

SOCHI, RUSSIA – FEBRUARY 19: Ryan Getzlaf #15 of Canada gets squeezed between Sandis Ozolins #8 and Arvids Rekis #6 of Latvia during the Men’s Ice Hockey Quarterfinal Playoff on Day 12 of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics at Bolshoy Ice Dome on February 19, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA – FEBRUARY 19: Ryan Getzlaf #15 of Canada gets squeezed between Sandis Ozolins #8 and Arvids Rekis #6 of Latvia during the Men’s Ice Hockey Quarterfinal Playoff on Day 12 of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics at Bolshoy Ice Dome on February 19, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

• Dec. 8, 2016: From the Board of Governors meetings:

Bettman tells the media that there is ‘strong negative sentiment’ from the BoG on shutting down the league for two weeks to accommodate those going to the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics. However there was no official vote on the matter.

“There are a lot of owners, a lot of clubs, over the years that have been very concerned about what Olympic participation does to the season,” said Bettman to the media. “What it does to players in terms of injuries. Not just those that go, but having a compressed schedule can make players more tired, more wear and tear on them, the potential for injury is greater.

“I think after doing five of these, I don’t know. I think ‘fatigue’ might be a word.”

This was echoed by some of the governors who believed going to the Olympics again ‘may not be in the NHL’s best interest.’

There were a few anonymous governors that didn’t repeat the NHL’s belief there was no tangible bump from Olympic participation, but limited the bump to Olympics held on North American soil.

As for what happens to players that decide to go on their own, Bettman wouldn’t broach the subject.

“We’re not going to go there today. There’s no reason to,” Bettman said. “No decision has been made, nobody is issuing any threats or edicts so we’ll save that answer for a different time.”

Bettman also states that the league’s use of the 2018 Olympic Games as a bargaining chip with the NHLPA was not true in it’s depiction through the media.

Bettman said he offered the idea of trying to figure out the best way to keep labor peace around international events that involve a 2020 World Cup, the 2018 Olympics and 2022 Olympics and a previously reported Ryder Cup type event.

“So if you look at the calendar and you play it out in the logical sequences of the way these events get played, we said, ‘if you look at the calendar and you get rid of the (CBA) reopeners and you extend by three years, that gets you two Olympics, two World Cups and two Ryder Cups, whatever form the Ryder Cup takes.

Most importantly it tells the world and our fans there’s nine years of labor peace after this season, which we thought would be a good thing even if there were things we might want to change,” Bettman said. “I hadn’t discussed this with any of the owners, and so maybe this was something we should each talk about because if the Olympics weren’t just a one-off for Pyeongchang, maybe those owners who think going to the Olympics has had run its course, might think better in the context of something broader.”

• Dec. 15, 2016: Puck Daddy checks in with the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) who are looking at their options if the NHL skips PyeongChang.

• Dec. 20, 2016: Elliotte Friedman reports:

• Jan. 1, 2017: Bettman and Fehr send two very different messages regarding Olympic participation.

Pierre LeBrun of ESPN spoke with Fehr:

“I’m more optimistic now that I ever have been, at least as far as we’re concerned, that we’ll be able to reach an appropriate agreement with the IIHF to allow for the players to go,” Fehr, the executive director of the NHL Players’ Association, told assembled media before the Centennial Classic.

“So I assume there will be further discussions over the course of the next several weeks and I choose to be optimistic on this one. We’ll see.’”

Asked why exactly he felt more optimistic now, Fehr didn’t really have specific reasons.

“You get a sense of things as they go along, you get a sense of things and how they’re likely to end up; doesn’t mean you’re always right, but you get a sense of things,” said Fehr.

Shortly thereafter, Bettman spoke to David Amber of Hockey Night in Canada:

“There’s been no update. We haven’t set the time table,” said Bettman. “We haven’t had any communications from the International Ice Hockey Federation or the International Olympic Committee.

“The Players Association made clear that there was nothing on the horizon before the last board meeting, and I gave the Governors an update.

“There’s a lot of concern about the disruption, the wear and tare on the players – both during the regular season with the compressed schedule and during the Olympic break. There is a lot of concern about continuing our involvement because of how disruptive it’s been.”

“Don’t really know [what the next step is],” said Bettman.

“We’re waiting to see if there is any new information; anything that might cause the owners to focus on the experience a little differently.”

We think what Bettman is trying to say is, “SHOW [THE OWNERS] THE MONEY.”

• Jan. 13, 2017: John Shannon of Sportsnet reports:

• Jan. 15, 2017: The deadline imposed by IOC president on Oct. 10 for the NHL to make their decision on participation passes.

• Jan. 26, 2017: More reporting from John Shannon:

• Jan. 27, 2017: Shannon notes the NHL’s disinterest in discussing the Olympics

• Jan. 28, 2017: Shannon with the status update of no update.

• Jan. 28, 2017: All-Star weekend in Los Angeles brought out more questions about the Olympics and no real answers from the league.

Puck Daddy reported from the event that Bill Daly had recently returned from China ‘where he checked out the viability of the country for potential NHL preseason and regular season games, along with how the 2022 Olympics in Beijing could work from a hockey perspective.

“I think there’s a lot of intrigue (there) about our sport now,” Daly added. “They all emphasize the fact that one, the sport needs more exposure in China but two it’s a very popular sport amongst young kids. They like the game and seeing it. So it’s about making it more accessible and more available for the Chinese youth building the infrastructure there.”

Even though he didn’t out right say it, Daly essentially ends the debate that the NHL prefers their players attend the 2022 games in Beijing over 2018 in Pyeongchang.

The point was further driven home by the Commissioner, stating:

Bettman added, the NHL is ‘not the ones setting deadlines’ on Olympic participation. That is true. The IOC imposed a deadline of Jan. 15 and everyone seemed to ignore it.

“If the status quo remains, I don’t expect us to be in the Olympics,” said deputy commissioner Bill Daly to Puck Daddy. “As of right now, there’s not a will [to participate].”

That will, again, comes from the owners.

Bettman does walk back an earlier comment about the NHL’s participation being contingent on money.

“I think there’s concern from teams about the ongoing disruption in the season. The schedule. A whole host of other things. I’ve never said that just raising the money was the issue,” Bettman said on Saturday.

“What I think has happened is that there were some owners, over time, who probably though the Olympics were a good idea. There were some that always hated it. And then there were some clubs that didn’t give it much thought until the IOC said they’re not going to pay the expenses. And that’s when they said, ‘wait a minute why are we knocking ourselves out [to go]?”

Reminder: the IIHF ‘found the money’ to cover the IOC’s lack of contribution.

SOCHI, RUSSIA – FEBRUARY 19: A United States fan cheers on his team during the Men’s Ice Hockey Quarterfinal Playoff on Day 12 of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics at Shayba Arena on February 19, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA – FEBRUARY 19: A United States fan cheers on his team during the Men’s Ice Hockey Quarterfinal Playoff on Day 12 of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics at Shayba Arena on February 19, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

“I’m not putting this at the IIHF’s feet, but we don’t have all the information about where the money is coming from, and how much exactly they’re picking up. But then again, they could give us all the information and that might not move the needle anyway,” said Daly. The deputy commish is sticking to his line from earlier when approached with the idea of going if the IIHF got the money.<

Bottom line: Daly said there would need to be a ‘game-changer’ for he and Bettman to take a proposal back to the Board of Governors.

• Feb. 2, 2017: John Shannon and Bob McKenzie report on the efforts of the IOC and IIHF to bring the NHL and NHLPA back to the negotiating table and other details.

What comes as somewhat of a suprise knowing what we know now is the following:

Why didn’t the NHLPA use the games the NHL wants as leverage in the Olympic negotiations? It’s difficult to believe the players were more invested in playing a couple NHL games overseas, and receiving whatever monies from it, than playing in the Olympics.

• Feb. 7, 2017: The IIHF remains optimistic, but is starting to consider ‘Plan B.’

“We came out of these discussions with a clear comprehension of the issues at play. We did our homework ahead of our meeting in New York and were able to clarify many of the open questions that the owners and the PA had, especially relating to the questions of payments for insurance and travel,” Fasel told IIHF.com.

“To be clear, we were able to devise a financial framework that will cover these payments without drawing funds away from the IIHF’s development programs or those of our MNAs.”

Fasel clears up Daly and Bettman’s question from the All-Star weekend of where the IIHF got the money, and it wasn’t from the children!

Fasel continues, “We discussed this as well, and as it stands now we would not deviate from the standard format for the Olympic men’s tournament. We would keep to the same rules, schedule, and playing format, and would not shift to something like an Under-23 tournament, for example.

“That said, Olympic ice hockey has a wonderful and exciting history that goes further back than just Nagano. Look at the Swedes in Lillehammer, the Soviets in Cortina d’Ampezzo, and the Americans in Lake Placid… these are just some of the great moments we have witnessed playing under the Rings.

“If we do not have the NHL in PyeongChang, I have zero doubt that the Olympic men’s tournament will still be as thrilling and competitive as any we have seen.”

• Feb. 8, 2017: More deadlines and reporting by Bob McKenzie.

• Feb. 27, 2017: John Shannon confirms with Bettman that there will be an All-Star Game next season. Olympic participation would have seen the game cancelled. The location is TBD.

• Mar. 8, 2017: The NHL is reportedly planning the 2017-18 season with no Olympic break in it.

Mar. 18, 2017: John Shannon reports Bettman tells a group of business leaders he’s ‘not optimistic’ about NHL participation in Olympics.

On the same day, Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk tells Erik Karlsson he’s not going to the Olympics in an interview with Sportsnet.

• Mar. 23, 2017: Chatter starts to heat up again.

First John Shannon reports:

Deadlines, schmedlines.

Then we hear from Donald Fehr and the NHLPA.

Fehr said the players didn’t want ‘effectively a two-year extension’ of the current CBA offered by the NHL.

Fehr went on, speaking to Pierre Lebrun of ESPN, “I don’t know what it can be from the players’ perspective. Obviously the players are not about to engage in collective bargaining in return for getting an opportunity to go to the Olympics for which they aren’t being paid, where very valuable things would go elsewhere in return for that.

“As far as the players are concerned, there’s no hard and fast deadline. They’ll be ready to play. There may well be some [deadlines] from the NHL in terms of scheduling and planning and there may be some [deadlines] from the IOC and the IIHF in terms of alerting the federations and if so, they’ll make that plain.

“But from our standpoint, our job is to keep working at it, and trying, and thinking, and urging, and pleading, and cajoling, and whatever else you do, until we’re successful.”

Sadly, none of those things produce big bags of money.

SOCHI, RUSSIA – FEBRUARY 19: A fan looks on before the Men’s Ice Hockey Quarterfinal Playoff between Sweden and Slovenia on Day 12 of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics at Bolshoy Ice Dome on February 19, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA – FEBRUARY 19: A fan looks on before the Men’s Ice Hockey Quarterfinal Playoff between Sweden and Slovenia on Day 12 of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics at Bolshoy Ice Dome on February 19, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images)

• Mar. 24, 2017: The NHL announces games in Sweden next season.

• Mar. 29, 2017: The NHL announces games in China next season.

On the same day, Reuters publishes an ‘exclusive’ about the IIHF paying for the NHL players’ insurance and travel.

Wait a second…didn’t that already happen?

Yes, it did. See: Nov. 15, 2016. Best guess is that this was perhaps a planted story by the IIHF and/or IOC to sway public opinion against the NHL by all those who haven’t been paying attention.

Then Elliotte Friedman reports on an email conversation he had with the IOC.

The IOC spokesman offers a lot of flowery language before getting down to the good stuff. First, he combines the ‘offer’ for the NHL to participate in the Olympics as a package deal. NHL has to agree to participate in 2018 and 2022, not one or the other. Next, he reiterates the IOC’s position to no longer fund professional sports leagues expenses in exchange participation. Finally, he calls out the NHL.

“Obviously, this time the owners of the NHL clubs are putting more commercial conditions to the IOC and the Olympic Movement. The IOC has been informed the talks between the International Federation and the NHL are continuing. The IOC knows that NHL understands that the Olympic movement cannot treat the owners of a commercial franchise of a national league better than an international sports federation or other professional leagues with regard to the Olympic Games.

“Within this framework the IOC still hopes that NHL will be able to make the players’ Olympic dream come true.”

Ever since the IOC pulled funding, the NHL has given two pucks about their input. The only compelling reason the NHL might interject is if they really feel they’ll lose out on Beijing, but even then it’s been a ‘you need us more than we need you’ mentality.

Mar. 31, 2017: John Shannon blogs about why the NHL doesn’t need the Beijing Olympics in order to be successful in China.

• Apr. 1, 2017: John Shannon and Elliott Friedman report Apr. 10 is ‘decision day’ for Olympics.

• Apr. 3, 2017: NHL announces they will not participate in Olympics.

– – – – – – –

Jen Neale is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow her on Twitter!