August 05, 2009
In case you're scoring at home on the contentious issue of player participation in Olympic orientation camps this month:
The NHLPA sent a memo to its membership in July "recommending they skip the on-ice portion of Olympic orientation camps because of insurance concerns," calling these exercises an "unwarranted and unnecessary risk."
The players have, however, been vocal about participating in all facets of orientation camp. Eric Staal(notes) of the Carolina Hurricanes said recently, "I haven't lived my life or played hockey thinking I'm going to get hurt or seriously injured." To that end, USA Hockey told us last month that it's planning an "on-ice component" to its orientation camp in Illinois.
Now, according to agent Allan Walsh and his always-intriguing Twitter feed, the NHL has sent a memo explaining what will happen if players are injured at summer camp:
"Shocking but true. The NHL has sent out a memo that it will not honor NHL contract for a player injured at a summer Olympic training camp ..."
"As follow up, found out NHL teams directed to suspend and not pay any player injured in Summer Olympic Orientation camp ..."
"Team Canada exhibition game...what happens to seriously injured player? NHL benefits w/ Olympic participation and players bear all risk!"
The exclamation point indicates that this is an important issue.
So, in summary: The NHLPA doesn't want its players skating in the camps because there isn't adequate insurance coverage for their elephantine contracts.
The NHL pretty much says that the insurance coverage better be epic, because it's not honoring the contracts of players injured in orientation camps, which Walsh said the League believes aren't meant to be covered by the CBA.
This could bolster the PA's pursuit of better coverage; then again, as George James Malik writes, "there's no way in hell that a player will participate in an Olympic camp if his own team will suspend him for getting injured."
Either way, it's another indication that the political gamesmanship between the two sides over the Winter Games is only going to worsen. The NHL now feels that Olympic participation is a nuisance whose time has passed, and that the NHLPA is the driving force behind keeping its members involved in the international tournament. Does this aggresssive move by the NHL put the Players Association closer to what Sports Illustrated suggested, which is that it cover the insurance shortfall from its own war chest?