During his annual quasi-State of the Union address Wednesday before the first game of the Stanley Cup Finals, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said that time is running out on locking up a deal between the NHL and the Olympics.
The talks between the NHL, IOC, and IIHF have been ongoing since January, after the NHL finally worked out a deal to save themselves from a lockout. But there hasn’t been much movement on either side of the table in the six months since, and it’s now threatening next season’s schedule.
The issues now are the same as they ever were: namely media rights and travel and hospitality for NHL players, owners, officials, and families, and determining which party will pay to insure roughly $3 billion worth of professional players contracts during the two-week Olympic hiatus.
With media rights, the NHL hopes the use the IOC’s Olympic brand to help promote the sport worldwide, since many of its players stem from European countries and Russia, host of the 2014 Winter Games.
Regardless of whether the NHL releases all its players, the Washington Capitals have already given their blessing to perennial MVP candidate Alex Ovechkin of Russia to compete in the Olympics on his home soil, which will no doubt set a precedent that the rest of the owners will feel pressured to follow.
But Bettman made it clear that, beyond the end of the already tumultuous lockout-shortened season, the Olympics is a priority for the NHL, so they can move forward with the other business at hand.
“Once we get the Olympics figured out we will start focusing on a long term, Olympic, World Cup, world championship international competition calendar,” Bettman said. “These are all things we are intrigued by and think are great opportunities for hockey worldwide.”