Meet­ing to­day could boost NHL’s Olympic prospects

Cape Breton Post - - SPORTS - BY JONAS SIEGEL THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

NHL par­tic­i­pa­tion in the 2018 Olympics may get a much­needed boost to­day.

A source has con­firmed to The Cana­dian Press that a meet­ing will take place in New York City be­tween NHL com­mis­sioner Gary Bettman, NHLPA ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor Don­ald Fehr, IOC pres­i­dent Thomas Bach and IIHF pres­i­dent Rene Fasel. The per­son spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause the meet­ing hasn’t been an­nounced by any of the par­ties in­volved.

The gather­ing could go a long way to­wards de­ter­min­ing whether NHL play­ers at­tend the next Olympics in South Korea, a prospect that’s looked in­creas­ingly grim.

Dur­ing all-star week­end in Los An­ge­les, NHL deputy com­mis­sioner Bill Daly said: “If the sta­tus quo re­mains I don’t ex­pect us to be in the Olympics.”

Daly said a “com­pelling rea­son” was re­quired to sway NHL own­ers to­ward their play­ers at­tend­ing a sixth straight Games. Own­ers are ev­i­dently con­cerned about shut­ting down op­er­a­tions for two-plus weeks and un­con­vinced about any tan­gi­ble ben­e­fit to the league when play­ers par­tic­i­pate.

A face-to-face meet­ing be­tween the NHL and IOC, in par­tic­u­lar, could prove es­pe­cially help­ful to the process.

Bettman said Bach “may have opened a whole can of worms” and sparked neg­a­tive sen­ti­ment among own­ers when he de­clared that the IOC would no longer cover out-of-pocket pay­ments for NHL play­ers to at­tend the Games.

“...I think it caused a num­ber of clubs to say ‘Well, wait a minute. If that’s how they value our par­tic­i­pa­tion why are we knock­ing our­selves out?”’ Bettman said dur­ing a state of the union me­dia ad­dress at the all-star fes­tiv­i­ties in Los An­ge­les.

The NHL and IOC haven’t dealt di­rectly with one an­other through­out the Olympic ne­go­ti­a­tion process with Fasel act­ing in­stead as in­ter­me­di­ary.

Con­nor McDavid joined a grow­ing group of NHL play­ers urg­ing the league to­ward at­tend­ing the Games one year from now.

The 20-year-old, who would be a lock to play for the next edi­tion of Team Canada, said he couldn’t picture the Olympics with­out NHL play­ers.

“There’s a lot of peo­ple higher up than me that are go­ing to be fig­ur­ing that one out, but 100 per cent they should go,” McDavid said.

Jonathan Toews, who won gold with Canada at the last two Olympics, echoed those sen­ti­ments.

“A lot of the talk has been it’s the play­ers push­ing for it, and it’s the play­ers that are in­ter­ested and want to go. I think the play­ers do want to go, but I think it should be of in­ter­est to the play­ers and the league,” Toews said dur­ing all­star week­end. “I think the NHL should be in the Olympics.”

CP PHOTO

Canada’s Sid­ney Crosby waits for a face-off against Swe­den dur­ing the first pe­riod of the men’s gold medal ice hockey game at the 2014 Win­ter Olympics in Sochi, Rus­sia.

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