Most assumed we would have a deal in place for the NHL players to compete in Sochi by the end of the World Hockey Championships, which came and went last month. Now it’s at the end of the NHL season, which we’re mere days away from. And while officials are saying that things are getting closer and closer, nothing is signed, making this report the exact same as all of these!
“Hopefully within the next couple of weeks we’ll have a formal agreement done,” Hockey Canada President Bob Nicholson told Sportsnet.ca.
“We certainly have our sights that the NHL players will be there, but we still have to get that done with the NHL and the NHL Players’ Association. I can tell you that in all the meetings I’ve been in with those parties, the IIHF, the IOC – everyone wants it. Now we’re just trying to cross all the t’s and dot the i’s.”
If that’s true, that would be a change of heart for NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, who said after Vancouver Games that he wasn’t a fan of his players participating because it costs the league money and disrupts the season. Bettman also admitted last week that time is running out to get a deal done, because the NHL needs time to prepare for a new season, including making the schedule, which can’t be done until they decide if the league will be taking a two-week hiatus for the Olympics or not.
“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 ahead of the Stanley Cup Finals. “These are all things we are intrigued by and think are great opportunities for hockey worldwide.”
From what we can tell, the sticking point still remains that the NHL is looking to lock up media rights, travel and hospitality for NHL players, owners, officials, and families, and a decision on which party will pay to insure the more than $3 billion in players contracts at the Olympics.
This would be the fifth straight Olympics with NHL players, dating back to the 1998 Nagano Games when future hall-of-famer Dominik Hašek tended goal for the champs from the Czech Republic.