Gary Bettman: Olympic ‘fatigue’ may be setting in for NHL

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PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman says there’s significant opposition among team owners to continuing participation in the Winter Olympics, and the league is running out of time on negotiations to take part in the 2018 Games.

Following a meeting of the league’s Board of Governors on Thursday, Bettman said no decision was made regarding Olympics participation in 2018 in South Korea.

“I think it’s fair to say that there is some strong negative sentiment in the room,” Bettman said. “But nothing was decided today.”

NHL players have competed in the past five Winter Olympics dating to 1998 and want to continue taking part, but owners are concerned about the midseason interruption and injury risk.

“There are a lot of owners, clubs, over the years that have been very concerned about what Olympic participation does to the season, what it does to the players in terms of injuries, not just to those that go, but having a compressed schedule can make the players more tired, more wear and tear, and the potential for injury is greater,” Bettman said, according to NHL.com. “I think after doing five of these, I don’t know, fatigue might be a word?”

Bettman said his recent proposal to the NHL Players’ Association regarding an extension of the collective bargaining agreement in return for Olympic participation was part of a larger discussion about hockey’s international calendar.

“That discussion morphed into, ‘Maybe we should be talking about a long-term international schedule with predictability,'” Bettman said. “If you look at the calendar and you play it out in the logical sequences of the way these events get played, we said if you look at the calendar and get rid of the (CBA) reopeners and you extend by three years, that gets you two Olympics, two World Cups and two Ryder Cups.”

Such an agreement would ensure nine years of labor peace, but players rejected the proposal.

Bettman has said a decision regarding the Olympics needs to be made by early January, giving the league time to create its 2017-18 schedule with or without a two-plus week break for the Olympics.

The Board of Governors meetings conclude Friday.

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