The National Hockey League (NHL) is still searching for a “compelling reason” to allow its players to participate at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, deputy commissioner Bill Daly has claimed.
Daly also admitted there had been no progress in the ongoing discussions surrounding the participation of NHL players at the Games and that “nothing has changed.”
NHL stars have participated at every edition of the Winter Olympics since their debut appearance in Nagano in 1998.
But negotiations are proving particularly fractious this time because the International Olympic Committee (IOC) have opted to stop covering the cost of transportation and accommodation fees as they previously had.
The expense row is “not the only issue,” Daly said, although it appears the players are desperate to be allowed to take part in the first-ever Winter Olympics to be held in South Korea.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman claimed earlier this month how team owners are displaying a “strong negative sentiment” and are showing signs of “fatigue” after appearing at the five previous editions.
The sentiment has been reiterated by Daly, who said there has “just not been any substantive communication with respect to moving the Olympic question forward.”
“The question is, does anything change?,” he said.
“Do the dynamics change in such a way that we’re in a position to go back to the Board and say, ‘we understand that a number of you, a good number of you, don’t see the benefit for participation in the Olympics, this is the reason you should reconsider that and decide as to whether it’s a good thing for your club, for the League as a whole or for the game as a whole?’
“That can come in a variety of forms, and I’m not going to speculate how that plays out, but at least at this point nothing has happened that would change where we were three weeks ago [at the Board of Governors meeting] in Palm Beach.
“We haven’t heard formally from the International Ice Hockey Federation with respect to where they are with the IOC and what exactly the nature of the expenses are.
“From our Board’s perspective, there has to be a compelling reason for us to go to the Olympics, and as I stand here now, we’re still searching for that reason.”
The topic has been heavily discussed over the past month, with Bettman meeting NHL Players’ Association (NHLPA) executive director Donald Fehr.
The NHLPA have already formally turned down a deal which would have permitted Winter Olympic participation in return for an extension to their current collective bargaining agreement.
This was last negotiated during a strike that led to almost half of the 2012-13 season being missed and is due to expire in 2022.
NHL officials were hoping to use Pyeongchang to force an extension until 2025.
Finding another ground for negotiation is thought to have been the subject at the latest meeting.
The NHL would have to shut down for two weeks in order for its players to compete at the Games – scheduled to take place from February 9 to 25 – and the league has said previously it would like to make a decision by January 2017.
It is thought the NHL are still determined to get some kind of concession in return for backing down.
Last week, Angela Ruggiero, the chair of the IOC Athletes’ Commission who won Olympic gold in ice hockey with the United States in Nagano, exclusively told insidethegames that NHL players taking part in Pyeongchang was “immensely important”.
By Liam Morgan
Republished with permission from insidethegames.biz.