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Time running out for deal between NHL, IOC

Jun 13, 2013, 8:30 AM EDT

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

During his annual quasi-State of the Union address Wednesday before the first game of the Stanley Cup Finals, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said that time is running out on locking up a deal between the NHL and the Olympics.

The talks between the NHL, IOC, and IIHF have been ongoing since January, after the NHL finally worked out a deal to save themselves from a lockout. But there hasn’t been much movement on either side of the table in the six months since, and it’s now threatening next season’s schedule.

The issues now are the same as they ever were: namely media rights and travel and hospitality for NHL players, owners, officials, and families, and determining which party will pay to insure roughly $3 billion worth of professional players contracts during the two-week Olympic hiatus.

With media rights, the NHL hopes the use the IOC’s Olympic brand to help promote the sport worldwide, since many of its players stem from European countries and Russia, host of the 2014 Winter Games.

Regardless of whether the NHL releases all its players, the Washington Capitals have already given their blessing to perennial MVP candidate Alex Ovechkin of Russia to compete in the Olympics on his home soil, which will no doubt set a precedent that the rest of the owners will feel pressured to follow.

But Bettman made it clear that, beyond the end of the already tumultuous lockout-shortened season, the Olympics is a priority for the NHL, so they can move forward with the other business at hand.

“Once we get the Olympics figured out we will start focusing on a long term, Olympic, World Cup, world championship international competition calendar,” Bettman said. “These are all things we are intrigued by and think are great opportunities for hockey worldwide.”

  1. bellerophon30 - Jun 15, 2013 at 1:16 PM

    As tempting as it is to blame Gary Bettman, given that it’s so much fun, the NHL is in the right here.

    *trying to hold back my gag reflex*

    The IOC and FIFA are making money hand over fist with the Olympics and World Cup, while the owners of the professional teams see their assets (some worth hundreds of millions of euros/dollars) risk bad injury. You think that the owners of Barcelona aren’t praying for Spain and Argentina to go out in the group stages of whichever competition their main guys (Messi, Xavi, Iniesta) are in every year? The wealth needs to be shared, because the risk sure isn’t.

    I still can’t believe I just sided with the NHL owners on something, but there’s a first time for everything.

    • Matthew Kitchen - Jun 15, 2013 at 1:22 PM

      Agreed. Most people just think it’s as easy as “well they want to play, so let them play.” But the financial risk is something that usually goes unnoticed. And it’s been a looming fear of David Stern’s for twenty years, too. But Stern also understand how well the game has grown internationally since the Dream Team, so he’s a willing, albeit constantly concerned, party. I’m just not sure continuing to allow NHL players, most of whom are already from other countries, will actually grow the sport and the league’s reach. Does the risk of shutting down for two weeks and allowing $3 billion dollars of player’s contracts to ram into each other at the Olympics ultimately outweigh the reward?

      • bellerophon30 - Jun 15, 2013 at 4:32 PM

        Well the players are just horses Matthew, you didn’t know that? I’m kidding of course, but FIFA and the IOC certainly aren’t, they think they can get good quality soccer played in 105 degree temps in Qatar for example.

        The NHL needs to do what the NBA is talking about: Take over the World Championships and really make it an event. Admittedly the NHL is in a slightly weaker position now, with the KHL poaching a decent number of good players, but that’s all the more reason to do something bold and assert their primacy over their sport. Oh wait, it’s Gary Bettman, sorry.

        Either way a showdown is coming, and I find it fascinating that the NHL could be at the vanguard of it. It really is a funny old world..

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