An announcement from NHL Commisioner Gary Bettman about whether players will be able to participate in the Sochi Games was expected sometime this month, but May is drawing to a close with no word yet from the league.
Now Bettman’s top deputy Bill Daly is saying that talks are still ongoing between the NHL, NHLPA, IOC, and IIHF over everything from media rights to accommodations. And if things drag too long, it will eventually become a problem of scheduling.
“We need to know what we’re doing with the Olympics next year to issue our schedule,” Daly said. “It’s important that we make a decision one way or the other by the time we normally release our schedule.”
The NHL schedule is usually released in June. But with new division alignments and an unbalanced schedule coming next year, the significant changes will be more difficult to incorporate.
Word about Sochi was supposed to come last week, after the IIHF Worlds, and Daly has previously said that the league was “proceeding under the assumption that the NHL will participate.” But talks are taking longer than expected, and the new major issue is which body will pay to insure the players.
“There is obviously a risk involved when you bring over a projected 160-180 NHL players, where the total contract value would be around $3 billion,” Daly said earlier this month. “This is a risk which must be insured, especially in cases of season-ending or career-ending injuries.”
The NHL is expected to break for a little more than two weeks starting Feb. 8. Players will then fly charters to Sochi in time for a practice day before the tournament begins on Feb. 12, and then NHL games would be scheduled to resume on Feb. 25, two days after the gold medal game in Russia.