LOS ANGELES – If fans have a desire to see their favorite NHL players in the 2018 Olympic Winter Games, several critical decisions remain outstanding. In fact, NHL decision-makers appear in no hurry to make any kind of decision.
That was the assessment coming out of the Staples Center during the All-Star weekend. In a way, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman went as far to indicate before the Skill Sessions Saturday that any Olympics discussion seems on permanent hold.
Since the International Olympic Committee told nations they would have to financially support their teams, Bettman coldly suggested that if that’s the ultimate decision, the NHL has better things to do with its time.
That would be filling in a schedule separated in the middle by the Games and impacting the All-Star game, which the NHL considers as a significant crown jewel.
“In our executive meeting (Saturday morning), the issue of the Olympics was not on the agenda.” Bettman told The Hockey Writers. “I brought that up and the discussion lasted about 10 seconds. There was nothing new to report and with no questions, the issue was dropped.”
Aside from the financial commitment which some owners support and others are lukewarm on, as Bettman added, the players’ routine and the league slate of games would be in peril.
Players Want an Olympic Experience
From the players’ perspective, Olympic competition is special and exceptional.
“It’s an honor to play for your country and something players take as important,” said captain John Tavares of the Islanders. “Things did not go our way in Sochi, so I’m looking to South Korea (in 2018). I hope we can go.”
Relative to the players’ desire, there is no option. Simply, players want the Olympic experience. From the NHL perspective, this appears more of a business decision. Should the schedule be broken and the All-Star game threatened, that’s revenue taken. Like any other business, the bottom line supersedes all else.
“The biggest concern we have is disruption of the schedule,” Bettman added. “Raising the money is not the issue. Although, I have a personal concern here. Money for hockey development would be diverted to the Olympics.”
If fans may not see their favorite players in the Olympic Games, fans waiting for NHL hockey in Quebec City will continue to wait.
With rumors swirling that owner Peter Karmanos may be willing to sell his Carolina Hurricanes, Bettman was asked about the immediacy of any sale and the chances of the franchise moving out of North Carolina.
Not so fast, Bettman warned.
“There’s nothing here,” Bettman said. “Peter may sell, but there’s nothing definite. There is no formal sale coming and the franchise is not moving. I don’t know if I can be more direct than that.”
In other issues, Bettman said there was no decision where the 2018 All-Star game would be played. In that vein, he did not commit to an outdoor game next season in Montreal. Acknowledging that the 100th anniversary of the league will continue into next season, the NHL made no commitment for any outdoor game.
Elsewhere, ice conditions in the Barclays Center, Bettman pointed out, continue to grow concern. While the league is committed to the Islanders in the metro New York area, technological and system issues in the arena need to be addressed.
Mark Brown is a former sports editor for daily newspapers in the Philadelphia and Cincinnati markets. He was named Best Sports Columnist, honorable mention 2004 by the Associated Press Society of Ohio. He is a contributor to major daily newspapers, including the Chicago Sun Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Milwaukee Journal, Arizona Republic, Nashville Tennessean and the Associated Press. He was a Featured Columnist for bleacherreport.com and covered the Arizona Coyotes.