NHL’s Olympic Participation Hits Speed Bump

NHL participation in the 2018 Olympics just hit a major speed bump. The situation was difficult to start with, but Saturday, IIHF President Rene Fasel told Inside the Games that the situation has become “even more difficult.”

The International Olympic Committee (IOC), according to Fasel, will not contribute to transportation and insurance costs to bring NHL players over for a sixth straight Olympic Games.

The costs will instead fall entirely to the IIHF and NHL to handle.

“The IOC took the decision not to pay transportation and insurance costs for NHL and NHL players to come to the next Olympic Games,” Fasel said. “We had a meeting with the NHL last week and the prognosis is not really good.”

There’s a balancing act taking place here. Many players want to participate and there are big marketing benefits for the NHL, but there’s a belief that the NHL sees a greater marketing opportunity available at the 2022 Games in Beijing rather than the 2018 Games in PyeongChang. Fasel said back in January that he believes that the NHL should choose both. “This is not a restaurant where you can choose from a menu a dish to your liking,” he said.

The estimate on costs to the IOC at the 2014 Sochi Olympics was $14 million, according to Inside the Games. Another $18 million was needed from the IIHF to cover transportation and insurance on NHL players.

There’s trepidation on the part of the IOC due to the expectation that other sports could begin asking for assistance as well. However, hockey is the only major international team sport at the Winter Olympics.

Additionally, the IOC has contributed to costs involved for NHL players during the last five Winter Olympics, making the idea that the sixth could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back an interesting stance.

The NHL is expected to make a decision on Olympic participation in the near future. It could come around the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio or as late as in proximity to the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.