NHL brass still leaning against Olympic shutdown next year

Gary Bettman discusses everything from the youth of the NHL to goal-line technology during his press conference in LA.

LOS ANGELES — NHL participation in the next Olympics is looking grim.

That was the picture painted by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly at all-star weekend in Los Angeles. The league’s board of governors met on Saturday with Bettman saying the Olympic conversation lasted all of 10 seconds. Nothing had changed from December, he told the board.

“If the status quo remains I don’t expect us to be in the Olympics,” Daly said after Bettman delivered his mid-season state of the union address to media.

NHL owners have expressed strong distaste to returning to a sixth straight Olympics in PyeongChang, sentiment that was expressed most strongly when the governors last met previously in Palm Beach, Fla. in early December.

Bettman suggested the International Olympic Committee had unwillingly sparked fury when it said, under the direction of president Thomas Bach, that out-of-pocket expenses would no longer be covered for NHL players to attend the Games.

“I think when the IOC said ‘You know what, we don’t think it’s worth it we’re not going to pay,’ I think that may have opened a whole can of worms,” Bettman said.

Owners were now especially reluctant to shut down the season to accommodate the Olympics and have become increasingly wary of the tangible global effect the Games could have, especially in South Korea.

International Ice Hockey Federation president Rene Fasel has suggested that it could deliver the out-of-pocket costs for players to attend — which he’s said amount to upwards of US$10 million — but Bettman was skeptical and concerned that the money might be coming from the pockets of minor hockey.

The NHL has begun contemplating two schedules for the 2017-18 season, one that includes the Olympics and one that doesn’t. Bettman said the league was considering a few different options for a potential 2018 all-star game.

“It’s something that as a practical matter needs to be decided at some point, but we’re not at that point yet,” Daly said. “There’s no reason to force a decision yet.”

The NHL is just waiting at this point, hoping for some kind of game-changer that might flip the minds of the governors.

“I don’t know what the something is,” Daly said. “All I can tell you is if we’re going to hear the same thing I don’t think it’s going to move the ball.”

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