NHL prepping 2 schedules — with Olympics and without
Deputy commissioner Daly says league still looking for 'compelling' reason to go to Pyeongchang
The NHL is working on a plan to move forward with or without the 2018 Olympics.
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said Friday afternoon that the league has begun working with teams on two different scheduling scenarios, one that would see NHL players attend the Games in South Korea almost 14 months from now and one that would see them sit out for the first time since 1994.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman had previously indicated the need for an Olympic decision by January, though no firm deadline was ever given. An alternative schedule accommodating the Olympics would seem to suggest a softening toward that time frame.
"We're not the ones imposing any kind of deadline," Daly said. "We'll see what the IOC and the IIHF's timetable is; obviously I think the players have flexibility. We won't be setting the deadline."
The IOC has ruffled feathers in the league by resisting payment of out-of-pocket expenses for NHL players in 2018 — upwards of $10 million US according to Bettman — which have been covered for the past five Olympic Games. Owners remain reluctant to shut down the season again for two-plus weeks in February for the Games, unable to see any clear tangible benefit to the league from an experience in Pyeongchang.
NHL seeks 'compelling reason'
The NHL's board of governors met earlier this month in Palm Beach, Fla., and voiced "strong negative sentiment" according to Bettman.
"There has to be a compelling reason for us to go to the Olympics at this point and as I stand here now we're still searching for that reason," Daly said.
Daly said the league is waiting on a formal response from the IIHF with respect to the IOC's position on expenses.
"Do the dynamics change in such a way that we're in a position to go back to the board and say 'We understand that a number of you, a good number of you, don't see the benefit for participation in the Olympics. This is the reason you should reconsider that and decide as to whether it's a good thing or not for your club and for the league as a whole and the game as a whole."' Daly said.
"But at least at this point nothing has happened that would change where we were three weeks ago in Palm Beach."
The NHL recently explored trading Olympic participation in 2018 for an extension of the current collective bargaining agreement, but was rejected by the NHL Players' Association. The proposal included a more expansive schedule of international events: two Olympics (2018 and 2022), two World Cups (2020 and 2024), and two tournaments using a similar format to golf's Ryder Cup (still to be determined).
'Time is short' says Daly
The NHL has not broached the framework of a similar concept with the NHLPA since, Daly said.
Though league officials have been targeting a decision regarding the Olympics by early 2017, it's worth noting that a deal for the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia, wasn't reached until July 2013 — about seven months beforehand.
Daly said in December that "time is very short to make a decision", noting the need for certainty among clubs with respect to the schedule.
The prospect of an alternative 2017-18 regular season schedule would seem to ease those demands, though Daly noted no progress has been made on the subject in the past three weeks.
"We'll see how things unfold once we hit January," he said. "But I don't really have much more to say about it other than that."