Would NHLPA agree to CBA extension for Olympic participation?

NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr confirms discussion with NHL to extend CBA for Olympic participation is a discussion worth having, and the process has begun, but it’s far from a done deal.

As an alphabet soup of stakeholders meet in New York City to discuss the future of Olympic hockey, sources indicate the NHL has made an offer to its players that could confirm their participation.

No one is willing to comment at this time, so it is difficult to pin down particulars. But, in exchange for the league’s blessing, the NHLPA would agree to extend the collective bargaining agreement. One source indicated it could be for three more years, but I can’t pin that down to be 100 per cent accurate.

This move is not unprecedented. Prior to the NHL’s first foray into the Olympics (Nagano, 1998) both sides agreed to waive the right to re-open their CBA to ensure there would be no labour disruption at that time. The league and players also agreed to an early extension when expansion loomed to Atlanta, Columbus, Minnesota and Nashville. Obviously, the NHL did not want a shutdown while that was happening.

The current CBA expires Sept. 15, 2022. However, both the NHL and NHLPA have the ability to opt out in 2020. If the league wants to go that route, it must notify the union by Sept. 1, 2019. Should it say, “Thanks but no thanks,” the players have the option. It must notify the NHL by Sept. 19, 2019. Should neither side want this, we go the full term.

It’s an interesting proposal. Here’s what the players will weigh: If they were to accept, they will lock-in for a longer period of high escrow, their biggest issue with the current CBA. They gain labour peace (which fans would love) and the right to go to the Olympics, which they will love. Now: do they believe NHL participation in the Games will happen anyway? If they think yes, they are giving up something for nothing. If they think the NHL is serious about saying no, then they have something to gain. That’s the poker game they are playing.

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