NHL com­mis­sioner Bettman re af­firms that NHL won’t par­tic­i­pate in 2018 Olympics

Cape Breton Post - - Sports -

Gary Bettman shov­elled a lit­tle more dirt on NHLers play­ing at the 2018 Olympics.

Speak­ing be­fore Game 1 of the Stan­ley Cup fi­nal in his an­nual state of the union ad­dress, the NHL com­mis­sioner said noth­ing had changed with re­gard to the Pyeongchang Games since a firm an­nounce­ment last month that the league would not at­tend.

Bettman de­nied ap­par­ent sug­ges­tions from the In­ter­na­tional Ice Hockey Fed­er­a­tion and NHL Play­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion that it was still an “`open is­sue.’’

“It is not and has not been,’’ said Bettman. “I hope that was de­fin­i­tive enough.’’

In stamp­ing home that point, Bettman con­firmed Tampa as the site of the 2018 all-star game and said a sched­ule for the 2017-18 sea­son would be an­nounced in late June.

IIHF pres­i­dent Rene Fasel said last month that there was “still some space’’ to con­vince Bettman. Fasel be­lieved the NHL needed to be in Pyeongchang, South Korea, to grow their brand in­ter­na­tion­ally.

Bettman re­peated fa­mil­iar ar­gu­ments against the NHL at­tend­ing, how­ever, in­clud­ing the sea­son dis­rup­tion re­quired of the Games.

“We’re not anti-Olympics, we’re anti-dis­rup­tion to the sea­son,’’ Bettman said.

NHL play­ers have at­tended ev­ery Win­ter Olympics since 1998 and one, Alex Ovechkin, said he would go in 2018 re­gard­less of the league’s stance. Bettman de­clined to say how the league would han­dle such a cir­cum­stance, but said was there was an “ex­pec­ta­tion that none of our play­ers are go­ing.’’

Dur­ing a re­cent trip to China, Bettman said Chi­nese of­fi­cials hadn’t asked whether the league would at­tend the 2022 Olympics. They were more con­cerned, he sug­gested, with de­vel­op­ing win­ter sports.

Speak­ing for just un­der an hour to a room of about 100 peo­ple with play­ers from the Nashville Preda­tors warm­ing up next door, Bettman added that the coach’s chal­lenge was work­ing as in­tended — both with re­gard to off­side and goal­tender in­ter­fer­ence. He also lauded the close na­ture of the NHL post-sea­son and ``com­pet­i­tive balance’’ which had de­liv­ered the Preda­tors to their first Stan­ley Cup fi­nal.

Bettman con­firmed an ear­lier re­port of an out­door game be­tween the Toronto Maple Leafs and Washington Cap­i­tals next March and thought Pen­guins gen­eral man­ager Jim Ruther­ford was en­gag­ing in games­man­ship when he com­plained about the treat­ment of cap­tain Sid­ney Crosby.

“Maybe he’s try­ing to tweak the of­fi­cials a lit­tle bit,’’ Bettman said.

Bettman and deputy com­mis­sioner Bill Daly hinted at the salary cap likely re­main­ing flat at US$73 mil­lion (or slightly up) next sea­son.

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