A reported NHL proposal that would send NHL players to the 2018 Olympics, if the NHLPA signs off, is being met by players with cynicism and a knee-jerk reaction of blackmail, hockey insider Bob McKenzie said.
The NHL will reportedly participate at a sixth straight Winter Games in Pyeongchang if the NHL Players Association extends the collective bargaining agreement for what’s believed to be three years.
The news came two days after International Ice Hockey Federation president Rene Fasel said the NHL’s biggest roadblock to Olympic participation — travel costs — would be covered and was no longer an issue.
The NHL, NHLPA and IIHF met in New York on Wednesday.
None of the players’ reaction to the latest proposal is positive, McKenzie said.
“The players have said, hey, we want to go to the Olympics, and suddenly the IIHF comes up with enough money to maybe facilitate that for the National Hockey League,” McKenzie said. “And suddenly the narrative has been shifted by the National Hockey League to suggest that if the players don’t agree to this, then the players say no to the Olympics. As opposed to the National Hockey League saying no to the Olympics, in the belief being deep down the NHL doesn’t really want to be in Korea in 2018.”
McKenzie said the players view Olympic participation as a benefit, but not a tangible benefit to close off CBA negotiating rights for three years.
A resolution on whether the NHL will take a break in its 2017-18 season to allow players to go to the Pyeongchang Olympics is expected by January.
“It’s an emotional issue, and I’m just not sure at this moment in time that, under pressure, the NHLPA wants to negotiate a CBA extension, in the backdrop of the Olympics, by January,” McKenzie said.
Fasel reportedly said after Wednesday’s meeting that his confidence that the NHL will send players to the Olympics remains at 50 percent, the same as it has been for months.
For the Sochi Olympics, NHL participation wasn’t decided until July 2013.
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