NHL: Play­ers un­der con­tract in mi­nors can’t go to Olympics

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - SPORTS - BY STEPHEN WHYNO

Not only will Sid­ney Crosby, Con­nor McDavid, Aus­ton Matthews and most of the best hockey play­ers in the world not be go­ing to the Olympics, nei­ther will any­one on an NHL con­tract.

The league has de­cided that play­ers with ac­tive NHL con­tracts, even those in the mi­nors, will not be al­lowed to par­tic­i­pate in the Olympics next Fe­bru­ary in South Korea. Deputy Com­mis­sioner Bill Daly con­firmed the league’s stance to The As­so­ci­ated Press on Mon­day

The league an­nounced in April it wouldn’t be stop­ping its sea­son to go to the Olympics for the first time since 1994, but ques­tions had re­mained about play­ers in the Amer­i­can Hockey League and ECHL.

“A de­ci­sion has been made that all play­ers un­der NHL con­tract will be sub­ject to sim­i­lar treat­ment,” Daly said.

This means play­ers signed to two-way NHL con­tracts or who are loaned to mi­nor league af­fil­i­ates by their clubs won’t be avail­able to the United States, Canada or other na­tional teams.

The AHL said ear­lier this sum­mer that gen­eral man­agers could de­cide to al­low play­ers on AHL con­tracts to play in South Korea.

Daly con­firmed that play­ers signed to NHL deals but who are play­ing in Europe, like Dal­las Stars first-round pick Miro Heiska­nen who is ex­pected to spend the sea­son in Fin­land, would not be pre­cluded from play­ing in the Olympics. Those play­ers loaned to Euro­pean teams wouldn’t be play­ing the sea­son on their NHL con­tracts, which is the same sit­u­a­tion for those on en­try-level deals in Cana­dian ma­jor ju­nior leagues.

Jim Jo­hann­son, USA Hockey’s as­sis­tant ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of hockey op­er­a­tions and the U.S. gen­eral man­ager for the 2018 Olympics, said that or­ga­ni­za­tion will hon­our its part­ner­ship with the NHL and not put any­one un­der con­tract in its player pool. Hockey Canada is also ex­pected to avoid any po­ten­tial con­flicts.

Jo­hann­son said Fri­day the of­fi­cial Olympic reg­u­la­tions hadn’t been fi­nal­ized un­til re­cently.

“For me the bot­tom line is if they’re not on the NHL reg­istry, mean­ing an NHL reg­is­tered con­tract, then they’re el­i­gi­ble,” Jo­hann­son said.

That means top Amer­i­can­born AHL play­ers like 2016-17 lead­ing scorer Kenny Agostino, de­fence­man T.J. Bren­nan and goal­tender Troy Grosenick won’t be part of Team USA be­cause they’re signed with NHL clubs for this sea­son. Chris Bourque, son of Hockey Hall of Famer Ray Bourque, and

goal­tender John Muse are ex­am­ples of U.S.-born play­ers on AHL con­tracts who could be se­lected.

The U.S. team is ex­pected to be made up of a mix of cur­rent col­lege play­ers, those on AHL deals and pro­fes­sion­als play­ing in Euro­pean leagues.

Canada, as it showed with ros­ters for two ex­hi­bi­tion tour­na­ments in Rus­sia this week, will lean heav­ily on Euro­pean­based play­ers with others mixed in.

CP PHOTO/DAR­RYL DYCK

Ed­mon­ton Oil­ers’ Con­nor McDavid skates with the puck dur­ing first pe­riod NHL hockey ac­tion against the Van­cou­ver Canucks, in Van­cou­ver, B.C., on Sat­ur­day, April 8, 2017.

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