The NHL continues to focus on growing the game internationally with another edition of the Global Series. This time, the league has landed in Stockholm with the Tampa Bay Lightning and Buffalo Sabres facing off on Friday and Saturday, with the promise of two more stops next year in Prague and Helsinki.
Might there be a trip to Beijing in the future? Say, in 2022, for the Olympic Winter Games?
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman confirmed during Friday’s pregame press conference in Sweden that he met with International Ice Hockey Federation president René Fasel, but said there is currently “no news to report” when it comes to the NHL’s Olympic participation.
“We had another meeting. We’ve had many, many meetings, and there is no news to report,” Bettman told reporters. “I would suggest it was more a philosophical and procedural discussion. [NHLPA executive director] Donald Fehr also participated in the meeting, but I have nothing to report on that front.”
The NHL announced in April 2017 that its players would not participate in the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. That was the first time since Nagano 1998 that NHLers weren’t part of the Games, and despite players and fans voicing their frustrations with the verdict, Bettman’s words on Friday didn’t provide much hope for a different outcome in 2022.
“I don’t want to sound like a broken record on the subject, but I think going to the Olympics is a challenge for us,” he said. “I know the players love representing their countries, I know that the players like going, I know that the players that don’t go like having a break in the middle of the season. But from our standpoint, we have found going to the Olympics to be incredibly disruptive… to our season.”
Past trips to the Olympics have required the NHL shutting down for two to three weeks, affecting revenues for team owners who are also worried about their star players suffering injuries and derailing their clubs’ seasons ahead of possible Stanley Cup Playoff runs. There have also been conflicts between the NHL and the IOC with regards to players’ insurance concerns, in addition to a handful of other issues Bettman alluded to Friday.
“We don’t get the opportunity — because the IOC won’t permit us — to even promote the fact that we’re going with our players and that we’re shutting down,” Bettman continued. “It’s a complicated issue, it’s something that the players’ association continues to raise with us. It’s something that Rene Fasel and the IIHF continues to raise with us. But as I said previously, there’s nothing new to report in that regard because for us, at best, it’s a mixed bag. And again, I think it has some pretty material downsides in terms of what happens to our season.”