IIHF will come up with the 2018 Olympic money for NHL players

Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin are the biggest stars at the Sochi Olympics. Their arrival, along with the other NHL players, signals that the Games have now truly begun (Bruce Bennett/Getty)

TORONTO – The International Ice Hockey Federation will come up with the money to cover insurance and transportation costs if NHL players go to the 2018 Olympics, president Rene Fasel told Sportsnet on Monday night.

“I think we will balance the budget,” Fasel said before the Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremony. “We will find the money.”

Fasel’s comments come just days before he is due to update officials from the NHL, Hockey Canada and USA Hockey on the progress of negotiations with the International Olympic Committee.

That meeting goes Wednesday morning in New York.

The NHL has repeatedly expressed concern with an apparent change in IOC policy, which would see it asked to fork over more than $10-million to fly players to Pyeongchang, buy them insurance and cover the cost of their accommodations. The league didn’t pay for any of those things while sending its players to the previous five Winter Games.

But Fasel now insists that there will be no change in what is provided to the NHL in exchange for interrupting its season for more than two weeks in February and sending its players to the Olympics.

“We will do the same thing as we did in Sochi (in 2014),” said Fasel. “They have one guest per player – we will cover that – (plus) transportation and accommodation. And then the (hospitality) room for the PA after the game.

“There’s a good balance here.”

Eliminating the financial concerns isn’t likely to satisfy the NHL completely. There are still broader issues to be worked through here.

During an appearance at the PrimeTime Sports conference on Monday morning, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman indicated that it was important to him that any money used to cover travel and insurance costs came from the proper place.

“I think the most likely thing is the International Ice Hockey Federation will come in and say ‘we’re going to do it on a pared-down basis,'” said Bettman. “That may impact getting players in and out, it may be insurance, it may impact what is provided to players and their families. But, again, even conceptually – if you’re worried about hockey developing worldwide at the grassroots level why are they taking money away from that to fund NHL player participation at the Olympics?”

Fasel told Sportsnet that he anticipated the costs being covered in part by the IOC, national hockey federations and national Olympic committees.

With a January deadline looming, time is running short to work through the issues.

Fasel and Bettman were both in their current roles when the NHL first agreed to go to the Olympics for the 1998 Games in Nagano. They have navigated some choppy waters along the way. But as the current discussions enter a critical phase, they appear to be on the same page about what the NHL’s financial obligation should be.

“They should never pay,” said Fasel. “This is for me, this is a very important jewel. They should not cover the insurance and the transportation. It’s a word I gave them since the beginning.

“We are still working on the deal we made in 1998, and for me this is a holy rule. I will not break that.”

Asked if he’s feeling optimistic ahead of Wednesday’s meeting – the first between the sides in two months – Fasel paused.

“We will see,” he said. “We will see. I know the players are very excited to go.”

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