A day after the NHL announced that it would not send its players to the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, there’s still a lingering feeling that the door remains open for a deal to be made, despite the league’s statement ending with “We now consider the matter officially closed.”
Alex Ovechkin believes the NHL is bluffing. The IIHF is moving forward, but you know they want the NHL there. And now the IOC is still hopeful, but not enticing the league back to the negotiating table.
IOC president Thomas Bach said “we’ll see” when asked by Liam Morgan of Inside the Games if something could still be worked out to have NHLers in Korea. He did add that if the league wants to talk, things have changed a bit.
“The NHL had been offered the same conditions like in the Olympics before. Obviously they wanted something more and we still do not know what,” Bach said. “The offer which was made by the IIHF to cover the insurance and travel costs, as was done for previous Games and, with which they were not satisfied any more. The offer by the IF was very clear that they would be ready to cover the travel and insurance costs for 2018 and 2022 and with the decision of the NHL this offer is off the table.”
Those costs were of a concern to the NHL early on, but IIHF president Rene Fasel cobbled together the estimated $10-$20 million needed to cover those expenses – expenses the IOC had been picking up since 1998 and was no longer interested in paying.
Horst Lichtner, the IIHF’s general secretary, pointed his finger at the NHLPA saying, “If you know that your main stakeholders, the players, want to play the Olympics – they’ve stated it and repeated it constantly over the last six months – and the PA doesn’t move and doesn’t sit down to the table, what would you do if you were the NHL?”
Last fall, the NHL offered the NHLPA Olympic participation in exchange for a three-year extension on the current collective bargaining agreement, but the players declined.
“Everybody puts everything into the effort to make the best Olympic winter sport tournament happen and there is one party who doesn’t do anything and is just demanding all the time,” Lichtner added. “If we have some movement from all the sides and we could still do it.”
This announcement by the NHL ending the dance and finally providing a firm answer to the Olympic question could now spur some real negotiations between all parties involved.
Many players will continue expressing their disappointment at not participating, and the IIHF will want to showcase a best-on-best tournament next February. Will sponsors and television partners like NBC pressure the IOC to work with the NHL on what they’re seeking in a deal in order to go? That remains to be seen.
It’s only April. The NHL and NHLPA announced their participation for the Sochi Games in July 2013 and next season’s schedule won’t come out until June. The door is not completely shut.
– – – – – – –
MORE FROM YAHOO HOCKEY: