NHL commissioner Gary Bettman spoke with the media Tuesday at a Winter Classic promotional event in St. Louis. With the 2016 Rio Olympics in full swing, discussion of NHL involvement in the 2018 Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea was inevitable. However, the discussion was brief.
Bettman told Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune that there will be no discussions with the IIHF, IOC and NHLPA on NHL involvement in the 2018 Olympics “until the winter.”
While the start of the Summer Games has people excited about the Olympics, the delay on further discussions isn’t a surprise, as the NHL will surely want to have a better picture of how things fare with their reborn World Cup of Hockey, set to kick off on September 17.
While the presence of the World Cup does not mean that the NHL cannot be involved in the Olympics, it is seen as a possible Olympic replacement.
There’s a strong economic case for the NHL to be involved in the Olympics with the rapid growth of hockey in southeast Asia. Particularly in light of the KHL founding their first China-based franchise this season, the Kunlun Red Star who are located in Beijing. There’s a real opportunity for the NHL to get increasingly involved in the growth of the game in that region with the 2018 Olympics set for South Korea and the 2022 games set to take place in Beijing.
However, participation was dealt a blow back in April when it was revealed that the IOC will not pay the NHL’s costs for participation in the Games. Those costs are largely transportation, insurance and accommodations. They can total in excess of $20 million. The IOC has covered those costs for NHL players since the NHL began participating in the Games back in 1998.