NHL concentrating on 2017-18 schedule without Olympics

Sidney Crosby and Team Canada celebrate their gold medal win after the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games: Men's hockey, Gold medal game against Sweden. 3rd period action. (Photo by Christopher Morris/Corbis via Getty Images)
Sidney Crosby and Team Canada celebrate their gold medal win after the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games: Men’s hockey, Gold medal game against Sweden. 3rd period action. (Getty Images)

BOCA RATON, Fla. – The NHL said it is currently focused on a schedule “that doesn’t include the Olympics” for next season.

Commissioner Gary Bettman said that this could change “if something dramatic happened at some point in time” but ultimately Bettman said that the clock is ticking on an agreement.

“Obviously that could get too late,” he said following the end of the league’s annual meetings of general managers.

Bettman said there was no meeting scheduled between the NHL, the International Olympic Committee and the International Ice Hockey Federation to try to figure out if the league will allow its players to participate.

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“There is absolutely nothing new,” Bettman said. “I think the overwhelming sentiment of the teams is that it’s very disruptive on the season and there is somewhere between fatigue and negativity on the subject.”

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly was asked if there was some sort of deadline the league wanted to make to have a resolution, and said it wasn’t the NHL’s job to come up with an end point for a decision.

“At the end of the day, it’s the IOC’s tournament,” Daly said. “The IIHF has to administer it, they’re the ones who have to decide what their intentions are. Really, they have to establish a timetable.”

Bettman’s strong-worded statements about the possibility of not participating in these Games are the latest in a long line of comments from the NHL in questioning how the Olympics help its product. At the December Board of Governors meetings, Bettman said the league had a “strong negative sentiment” about participating in the Games.

At the NHL All-Star Game in late January, Daly said the league needed a “game-changer” to allow players to participate.

Meanwhile NHL players have voiced their support for going to the Olympics. Superstar Alex Ovechkin has said he’ll go to the 2018 Games, even if the league shuts down. The NHL has participated in the Games since 1998 in Nagano and players seem to enjoy the possibility to represent their countries.

“I love the Olympic experience, just because you’re there with your own teammates, but you’re also part of a bigger team. Many different athletes from Canada. ” Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said during the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. “I think that’s a special thing to share that experience with those athletes in the village, and to take in all the different sporting events that are going on. I think there’s a sense of pride.”

As far as scheduling for next season, the league probably could work on one scenario involving the Olympics and one without. The agreement for the NHL to send players to the Sochi 2014 Games didn’t happen until July of 2013

But the NHL and member clubs still need to lock down dates in regards to arena availability, which is a long-term process that can take a few months.

“The clubs are asked to submit dates so they’ve all submitted dates and we’re building a schedule,” Daly said.

Shutting down an entire league for the Olympics isn’t a problem that just the NHL faces. Several Swedish hockey officials came to the GMs meetings Wednesday to talk about the development model in their country and were asked about how it the Games affect pro leagues in Sweden.

“We are running two schedules more or less to see what we could be doing or not,” said Jorgen Lindgren, CEO of the Swedish Hockey League. “We have a lot of nationalities that are playing in our league that would probably go for their teams. On top of that we would send a couple of SHL players and then we would have some difficulties playing games. We have a really tight schedule, and it’s difficult closing it down, so hopefully we’ll have a solution for then. We are planning two schedules for the moment.”

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Daly was asked if the league had more of an appetite to go to the 2022 Games in Beijing and said he believed there were better economic prospects in China than in South Korea. The NHL is also exploring the possibility of a preseason game in China for next season, but hasn’t said if this will indeed happen.

“We’ve said this before too, it’s not the exact same equation in 2022,” Daly said. “Certainly, there’s a little more business opportunity in the Chinese games, but it causes the same disruptions. It might be a different evaluation and formula, so they’re different.”

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

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