As if it wasn’t already going to be a challenge, NHL participation at the 2018 Olympic Games in Pyeongchang took another blow after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) made a decision not to pay the travel and insurance costs of NHL players.
International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) president Rene Fasel told insidethegames that it’s looking less and less likely that the next Winter Games will include NHL players.
“The IOC took the decision not to pay transportation and insurance costs for NHL and NHL players to come to the next Olympic Games,” said Fasel. “We had a meeting with the NHL last week and the prognosis is not really good.”
The NHL has halted its regular season and sent players to the Olympics since the Nagano Games in 1998. For Sochi 2014, the league reached a deal with the IIHF and IOC in the summer prior to the Games, with the IOC contributing US$14 million and the IIHF $18 million towards the hefty transportation and insurance costs.
“Our wish is to have the best players. [But the IOC] not covering the cost as they did at the last five Olympic Games puts us in a difficult financial situation,” said Fasel.
Fasel also told insidethegames that he believes the IOC is worried about setting a precedent that would have them cover the costs of athletes from other professional sports, such as tennis, basketball and golf.
But he insists that the timing of the Winter Olympics, which has the NHL take a mid-season break in order to participate, makes hockey, and the NHL, a unique case.
“We are the only winter team sport,” said Fasel. “The NHL has to shut down the league for nearly three weeks which is huge in February. There is also a risk of injuries. The good point is that the players want to come, they want to be part of the Olympics, so we are trying to find solutions.
“It’s not easy.”