Gary Bettman on 2022 Olympics: ‘I don’t know that we want to go to China’

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman gestures during a news conference. (Chris O'Meara/AP)

Hours removed from watching the defending champion Canadians get stunned by Germany and eliminated from gold medal contention at the 2018 Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman suggested the NHL-less international tournament’s next go-round could look pretty similar to this year’s iteration.

“I don’t know that we want to go to China,” Bettman said Friday of the 2022 Games in Beijing while speaking on a panel at the 2018 MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. “I think going to the Olympics is incredibly disruptive on a season.”

While it was assumed that the NHL was more open to the idea of going to the 2022 Games in China, particularly because of the league’s recent 2017 NHL China Games experiment, Bettman said location isn’t the true issue in his eyes.

“I know there’s this perception out there that we were looking for some grand negotiation with either the (NHL) Players’ Association or the IOC or the International Ice Hockey Federation. It wasn’t about that,” Bettman said. “It was about the fact that we think it’s too disruptive to our season. We are in the stretch drive now – every game matters … This is an exciting time, to have disappeared half way around the world for three weeks doesn’t do anything to enhance our game.

“I was on a panel about a year and a half ago with (NBA commissioner) Adam Silver, and I said to him ‘Would the NBA shut down in the middle of the season to go to the Olympics?’ and he said ‘Absolutely not.’ He didn’t even let me finish the sentence.”

While it appears Bettman and the league are still hesitant to allow their players to take time away from the NHL to participate in the international tournament, the commissioner did present one alternate option for the IOC.

“I’ve asked the IOC, I said ‘Why don’t you put us in the summer?’” Bettman said. “You know, just for you history buffs, that the first participation of hockey in the Olympics was in 1920 in Antwerp in the Summer Games. We’d be happy to go in the summer.

“I’m sure the players would be thrilled to go in the summer.”

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