Gary Bettman not looking to pick a fight over World Cup

Gary Bettman spoke about the World Cup of Hockey, illustrating all the reasons it wasn't agreed upon to happen again this year or next.

There will be no World Cup of Hockey in 2020, something that NHL commissioner Gary Bettman says comes down to the fact that the players’ union was unable to come to an agreement on doing it.

Appearing on Prime Time Sports Wednesday, Bettman talked about why there will be no World Cup in the foreseeable future.

“The simple fact of the matter is – and I’m not saying this just to be critical of anyone or anything – unlike some other things we do, the World Cup is a joint venture under the collective bargaining agreement in terms of how we do international tournaments with the Players’ Association,” he said.

Another big factor in not being able to do the tournament is the fact that both sides are engaging in collective bargaining negotiation and that doing a World Cup, as history has shown before, wouldn’t make sense with those negotiations not settled.

“We’ve been concerned as long as two years ago that having a World Cup in 2020 – as long as the union and the league having a re-opener – didn’t make any sense because if we all remember 2004, the World Cup was completely overshadowed by the fact we were in collective bargaining negotiations and there was a work stoppage the day after the World Cup,” Bettman said.

“So, from the outset, we were never comfortable – in the absence of certainty – that we could appropriately conduct the World Cup in 2020.”

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With that said, Bettman doesn’t want this news to be interpreted as a death knell for the World Cup or future negotiations with the union, he says there just needs to be labour stability first before things on the international side can get rolling again.

“This is a joint venture and we’re not looking to pick a fight and we’re not looking to pick a fight over the World Cup and, frankly, we’re not looking to pick a fight in collective bargaining.

“So, hopefully, we can get to a place where we can have labour peace – which I think is the most important thing – and if a by-product of labour peace is a long-term international calendar, I think that would be great for the game and our fans.”

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Of course, it’s impossible to talk about international hockey without mention of the Olympics. And as far as Bettman’s concerned, he and the 31 – and soon to be 32 – owners are concerned, they want no part of it.

“From our standpoint, the fact is, I think the clubs across the board – as do I – find the Olympics very disruptive to the season. Competitively, aesthetically, promotionally, everything that goes into making the season.

“I don’t think we missed a beat in not going to Pyeongchang and, in fact, we had a great season that would’ve been disrupted. And people could speculate, for example, that had we gone to Pyeongchang, the Capitals might not have made the playoffs because they were in a real rut going into early February and might not have won the Cup. So, whether or not you’re happy or sad they won the Cup, there’s competitive impact and a disruptive impact on the season by going to the Olympics.

“I know I’ve seen it speculated in some opinions that we’re using the Olympics as a bargaining chip. We’re not. We don’t like going to the Olympics. The fact that the IOC won’t do anything to even mitigate the impact that it has on us is an exacerbating factor, but in the final analysis, truth be told, our clubs would prefer not to disrupt the season that way.”

The biggest sticking point, as it would appear, for Bettman and the Olympics stems from the fact his own season needs to be put on hold for something that doesn’t fall under the NHL’s jurisdiction.

Since 1992, the NBA has always gone to the Olympics, but a big reason for that is because the Summer Games don’t interfere with the NBA’s season in any way. If they did, however, NBA commissioner Adam Silver would take similar action that Bettman has done.

“I happened to be on a panel with Adam Silver a year or so ago and we were having this Olympic discussion,” said Bettman. “I turned to Adam and said, ‘Would you have the NBA participate in the Olympics if it was during the season?’ And he said, ‘Absolutely not.’”

Listen to Bettman’s entire appearance on Prime Time Sports in the player above where he also dives a little into the Seattle expansion franchise among other topics.

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