NHL commissioner Gary Bettman says ‘assume we are not going’ to Olympics

Gene Principe and John Shannon sit down with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman to get his thoughts on Rogers Arena, the Olympics and more.

As more players and owners are speaking up with their opinions on the NHL’s involvement in the 2018 Olympics, commissioner Gary Bettman was the latest to comment on the stand-off.

Speaking to Reuters Tuesday at the Sport Business Summit in New York, Bettman said there were no negotiations currently ongoing between the league, IOC and IIHF and that perhaps people should start thinking about the very real possibility the league stays out of the Pyeongchang Games.

“As things stand now people should assume we are not going,” Bettman said.

The NHL has raised a few concerns with going to the 2018 Games, not least of which is that the league has to shut down for two weeks and send its best players to an event they don’t control. Just last week, Senators owner Eugene Melnyk was recalling the 2006 Games when his goalie, Dominik Hasek, went to play for the Czech Republic as Ottawa looked poised to go on a Cup run. Hasek was injured at the Games and never played for the Senators again.

Another factor is costs. The IOC has backed out of paying insurance and transportation for the players, as it had done in previous Games.

“I’ve suggested why don’t you treat us like a top sponsor,” Bettman told Reuters. “When the IOC comes to us and says, ‘by the way we know it cost $15 to $20 million to send your players between insurance, charter costs and accommodations for the players’ … well we’re not going to pay for that.

“If they don’t value our participation why are we going?”

Even if the league does not officially get involved in 2018, there is a possibility some players would ask to leave to represent their countries anyway.

Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin has said several times that he’d like to represent Russia next year even if the NHL doesn’t go, a stand team owner Ted Leonsis has supported.

Meanwhile, last week Senators defenceman Erik Karlsson said he’d like to go to the Olympics, although Melnyk gave a “flat no” to the idea allowing Karlsson to go without NHL participation.

Despite this ongoing dispute, it is believed the NHL still would like to participate in the 2022 Olympics in Beijing to take advantage of the large, mostly untapped Chinese market. Time is running short on a decision to go in 2018, but the league didn’t settle on attending the 2014 Games in Sochi until July of 2013.

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