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Gary Bettman: No evidence Olympics has improved NHL in North America

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NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said there’s no tangible, concrete evidence that Olympic participation since 1998 has benefited the NHL in North America.

“It hasn’t any impact,” Bettman said in a radio interview Wednesday. “We look at TV ratings, we look at attendance, we look at everything, and it’s been disruptive. Is it conceivable that in some places around the world, where they’re watching the Olympics, it might have a positive impact? I suppose, but I think back when we went to Nagano, Japan, [in 1998] the building that we played the event in, the day after the Olympics were over, they ripped out the ice.”

NHL officials have said there are no plans to participate in the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Games unless the status quo changes, but they haven’t made a final decision. They don’t want to take a break during their season to send players to the Olympics for a sixth straight time.

Bettman repeated some of the league’s concerns on Wednesday.

“We don’t even get the opportunity to promote the fact that we’re at the Olympics,” he said. “We don’t get to use the [Olympic] rings. I’ve said to the IOC, you know, Coca-Cola is a sponsor, they get to promote their association and say proud sponsor of the Olympics. They won’t let us do that, and we would lend player contracts worth something like $3.5 billion for those 17 days. There’s no recognition of the value by the IOC and the IIHF that we bring to the Olympics.

“To do it when there’s no football, and there’s no baseball, it’s really just us and basketball, and to get really no benefit of it. I’m not talking about compensation. We can’t market or promote that we’re there. We’re just there. And the IOC and the IIHF seem to be of the opinion that we should just be there, and whatever it takes, it takes.”

Four years ago, the NHL didn’t announce until seven months before the Sochi Olympics that it was participating in those Winter Games. But the NHL and Olympic officials had a handshake agreement one year before Sochi, according to Sportsnet.

“I understand why the Olympics want us there,” Bettman said Wednesday. “In terms of hours of TV programming in the Winter Olympics. In terms of most number of tickets sold for a sport in the Winter Olympics, hockey dominates.”

Bettman has cited owner fatigue, even negativity after five Olympics. Plus the 14-hour time difference from New York to PyeongChang, making for some Olympic games take place during the early morning for U.S. viewers.

“The world has changed since we started going, having our own network, having our own website,” Bettman said. “All of the things that we do with our fans, social media, on a daily basis, poof, we disappear. Because the IOC doesn’t let us do anything.”

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MORE: If no NHL at Olympics, who goes to PyeongChang?

Team USA Opening Ceremony uniforms have heaters

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The U.S. Olympic team uniforms for the PyeongChang Opening Ceremony contain heating components that will last up to 11 hours.

Ice dancers Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani and bobsledder Aja Evans wore the uniforms on TODAY on Monday.

The heat technology will come in handy.

The PyeongChang Opening Ceremony on Feb. 9 (live streaming on NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports app) will be in an outdoor stadium, likely in below-freezing temperatures.

From USA Today:

“The athletes can set the temperature (there are three settings) via their cellphones. The heat can last up to five hours on the high setting and 11 hours on the low setting, fully charged.”

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MORE: PyeongChang Olympic schedule daily highlights

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Jamaica misses Olympic men’s bobsled by one spot

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The only Jamaican bobsled team in PyeongChang will be its women’s bobsled team.

Jamaica missed qualifying a two-man bobsled team for the Olympics by one spot in rankings finalized last week.

Jamaica still had a chance to sneak into the 30-sled Olympic field if one of the qualified nations declined a spot, but that didn’t happen.

The International Bobsled and Skeleton Federation made it official Monday, publishing the Olympic fields for each event.

At least one Jamaican men’s sled competed in every Olympics from 1988 through 2002, then again in 2014.

Sochi driver Winston Watts retired, but a new team was formed in this Olympic cycle that included former Green Bay Packers and Cincinnati Bengals running back Michael Blair.

New driver Seldwyn Morgan competed on the lower-level North American Cup the last three seasons with a top finish of seventh.

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MORE: Would Usain Bolt make a good bobsledder?