IIHF president: NHL would put Beijing 2022 at risk by skipping PyeongChang

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International Ice Hockey Federation president Rene Fasel reportedly repeated that if the NHL does not send players to the PyeongChang Olympics, it might not have the opportunity to do so at the 2022 Beijing Winter Games.

“I consider [NHL commissioner] Gary Bettman as a smart person so he knows that not coming [to PyeongChang] would then put in danger participation in Beijing.” Fasel said Tuesday, according to insidethegames, echoing his similar reported comments from 2016. “It [the Olympics] is a strong brand. Not using this platform would be a mistake and, as I said I consider him [Bettman] as a very smart person. I think it’s a risk if he’s not coming.”

Bettman and other NHL officials have said that the league will not send players to the PyeongChang Olympics if the current status quo does not change. However, they have not definitively ruled out NHL participation, nor have they set a deadline to decide.

Bettman has said league owners are feeling “fatigue” after going to the last five Olympics. They are worried about another midseason interruption and potential injury risk.

Fasel said the NHL and the NHL Players’ Association should jointly find a way to ensure NHL participation in PyeongChang, according to insidethegames. The NHLPA is believed to be overwhelmingly in favor of Olympic participation.

“Maybe the National Hockey League is just sitting back, waiting for the National Hockey League Players’ Association to provide a concession or an inducement or something that would change the owners’ mind about going to PyeongChang,” insider Bob McKenzie said on NBCSN in February.

Bettman has been more open to sending NHL players to the 2022 Olympics in a country more ripe for growth as a hockey market.

“The question is would the fact that the Winter Olympics in Beijing would introduce that country to hockey, give us an opportunity to make a real impression in China, where hockey is really in an embryonic state?” Bettman said in November 2015. “And that’s a discussion we have to have to determine whether or not there is an opportunity to grow the game in China by using the Winter Games with NHL players as a catalyst. That’s the question. I don’t know the answer.”

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