NHL participation in the 2018 Olympics may get a much-needed boost on Friday.
A source has confirmed to The Canadian Press that a meeting will take place in New York City between NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr, IOC president Thomas Bach and IIHF president Rene Fasel.
The gathering could go a long way toward determining whether NHL players attend the next Olympics in South Korea, a prospect that’s looked increasingly grim.
During all-star weekend in Los Angeles, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said: “If the status quo remains I don’t expect us to be in the Olympics.”
Daly said a “compelling reason” was required to sway NHL owners toward their players attending a sixth straight Games. Owners are evidently concerned about shutting down operations for two-plus weeks and unconvinced about any tangible benefit to the league when players participate.
Face-to-face could prove helpful
A face-to-face meeting between the NHL and IOC, in particular, could prove especially helpful to the process.
Bettman said Bach “may have opened a whole can of worms” and sparked negative sentiment among owners when he declared that the IOC would no longer cover out-of-pocket payments for NHL players to attend the Games.
“…I think it caused a number of clubs to say ‘Well, wait a minute. If that’s how they value our participation why are we knocking ourselves out?”‘ Bettman said during a state of the union media address at the all-star festivities in Los Angeles.
The NHL and IOC haven’t dealt directly with one another throughout the Olympic negotiation process with Fasel acting instead as intermediary.
On Tuesday, Montreal Canadiens owner Geoff Molson told CBC Sports that support is divided among fellow owners.
“There are some owners that are strongly against it, there are other ones that are on the fence and there are some that think it’d be OK if we did it,” Molson said. “ And it hasn’t reached a point, a boiling point, where everyone has to raise their hand and vote on it. But like I’ve always said I think it’s important to give a star player a chance to represent their country and it’s a proud moment for them and I support that.”