NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said NHL participation in the next Olympics would likely hinge on money.
In his annual state of the union address at the Stanley Cup final, Bettman said the league and NHL Players’ Association might have to reconsider their participation in the Olympics if the International Olympic Committee went ahead with its threat of not paying out-of-pocket expenses for NHL players.
“Among the various things that have to be covered, whether it’s transportation or insurance or accommodation, it’s many, many, many millions of dollars,” Bettman said of the expenses. “This is no small-ticket item.”
IIHF president Rene Fasel recently revealed that the IOC and their president Thomas Bach aren’t interested in paying costs — transportation and insurance chiefly — that have been covered for the past five Olympics.
Bach took over the IOC’s presidency shortly before the 2014 Olympics and evidently doesn’t believe, according to Bettman, in “special subsidies” for any sports, even the NHL, which interrupts its season for participation in the Olympics.
Bettman said that resolution of the expense issue would “have a significant impact on our decision,” which is expected sometime after the September World Cup, likely in December or January, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said.
“I’m pretty sure that our teams are not really interested in paying for the privilege of disrupting our season,” Bettman said. “But we’ll have to see what they ultimately decide to do.”
The 2018 Olympics will be held in South Korea. Bettman also noted that expenses wouldn’t be the sole issue of debate in discussions between the NHL and NHLPA as it relates to Olympic participation, but said that if the IOC and IIHF aren’t going to cover what they’ve previously paid, “that almost becomes an easy showstopper and you don’t even have to get into the other discussion.”
“Everybody understands what distinguishes us from any other professional sports league or professional sport that participates in the Olympics, this comes right in the middle of the season and there are hard costs to that participation,” Bettman said. “We’re sending roughly 150 players to the Olympics if we go and there are real, logistical, costly elements to doing that.”
Bettman offered a more definitive timetable on a decision for expansion. He said the NHL’s Board of Governors would meet in Las Vegas prior to June 22 NHL awards with a decision on expansion, which could include Las Vegas and Quebec City.
The three possibilities, he said, were no expansion, deferred expansion or expansion to one or perhaps both markets.
“I am not going to handicap what’s going to happen,” Bettman said. Daly said the NHL and NHLPA discussed what the parameters of a potential expansion draft would look like.
No-trade clauses, Daly noted, would not prevent a player from being exposed to expansion.
“A trade is a trade, and if you have a no-trade clause it doesn’t mean you can’t be exposed in the expansion draft,” Daly said.
The earliest any expansion team could start playing is the 2017-18 season with deferral also a possibility on the docket.
As for the upcoming World Cup and one roster question mark, Bettman stressed that suspended defenceman Slava Voynov would not be eligible to play for Russia despite being named to its final 23-man roster. He said this has been made clear to the Russian Federation.