Hockey fans might not have to wait four years to find out if the National Hockey League and its players will participate in the next Winter Games.
A decision on whether to send the world’s best professional players to Pyeongchang, South Korea, in 2018 will be made in about six months, according to NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly.
“It should not take all that long, but I would have said the same thing coming out of 2010,” said Daly, addressing a group of news outlets in Sochi Tuesday, including Reuters.
“We will have a broader discussion with the players’ association on international competition and what we are doing internationally.
“That discussion is underway, so I would anticipate a quick resolution in respect to the Olympics, maybe six months.”
The NHL and its Players’ Association did not come to terms with the International Olympic Committee and agree to send it players to Sochi until July 2013, less than seven months before the Opening Ceremony. Travel, insurance and accommodation all proved to be negotiating points.
The NHL is known to be exploring other options for best-on-best international competition such as bringing back the World Cup and/or a Champions Cup-style tournament.
According to Reuters, Daly suggested breaking up the NHL schedule so players can compete for their countries doesn’t necessarily make the most sense for the league.
“There are a lot of negatives that come along with the Olympics,” said Daly, pointing out that the NHL is more prominent on the world stage now than in 1998, when its players debuted in Nagano. “We are guests here and it is not our tournament and it is someone else’s tournament. In terms of making it as good as it can be, we do not have control over that. There are positive and negatives.”
Longtime NHL owner Ed Snider criticized the league’s participation in the Games last week.
"I think it’s ridiculous to take three weeks off, or however long it is, in the middle of the season. It screws everything up,” said the Philadelphia Flyers boss. “There’s no benefit to us whatsoever. If anything, I can only see negatives."
International Ice Hockey Federation president Rene Fasel says he will do everything in his to convince the NHL and its players to participate in 2018, but ultimately both the NHL and NHLPA must be on board.
Hockey icon Wayne Gretzky is not alone in suspecting Sochi will be the last time NHLers participate in the tournament.
"Probably this could be the last Olympic Games that our guys go to because Korea in 2018, it’s just so difficult to fly all the way down there, stop the season for two-and-a-half weeks and come back and jump back into the regular-season pace," Gretzky told Sportsnet in the summer. "So maybe I am wrong, but this could be one of the last times you see professional hockey players playing at the Olympic Games."