Tim Wharnsby - Tuesday Feb. 18, 2014 02:43 ET

Gary Bettman not yet thinking about NHL participation in 2018 Olympics

Next Winter Games will be in South Korea

Gary Bettman, seen in a file photo, has been lukewarm on the 2018 Winter Games.
Gary Bettman, seen in a file photo, has been lukewarm on the 2018 Winter Games. (Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press)

The subject of the NHL's participation in future Olympic Games came up at a joint media conference Tuesday in Sochi featuring NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, NHL Players' Association executive director Donald Fehr and IIHF president Rene Fasel.

The NHL has not committed to sending players to participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Team Canada executive director Steve Yzerman continued to throw his support behind the NHL’s participation in the Olympics when asked about it in a press conference last week. But, as expected, Bettman said this will be something addressed down the road.

“The primary building blocks are logistics of travel, to and from the Olympics,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said afterwards. “It was a big challenge coming to Sochi and it certainly would be a big challenge if we were to go to South Korea. Player insurance is always a factor with the magnitude and length of player contracts these days, an incredible number of assets at risk.

“So those were two of the most fundamental things we talked about.”

Daly added that the NHL’s participation this time was helped by the fact that NHL broadcasters CBC and NBC also were Olympic rights holders. But the rights holders have yet to be determined for 2018.

“So we haven’t really given any serious consideration to South Korea at all,” Daly said.

The players will have a big say on this issue. Fehr promised a full and thorough investigation as to whether continued Olympic participation is what the players want. The NHL players’ volition to compete in the Olympics has been the main driving force behind their participation in the Winter Games.

World Cup closer to return

Fehr hinted that the two sides are closer to announcing details on a World Cup of Hockey. There hasn’t been one played since 2004 and the speculation continues to be the next World Cup could happen as soon as 2016.

There was the usual playfulness between Bettman and Fasel. At one point Fasel said there is nothing like seeing the smile of a hockey player when he wins a gold medal. To which Bettman was quick to reply, “Except winning the Stanley Cup.”

Finally, Daly was asked about expansion. There was a recent newspaper story in Seattle that said the NHL has targeted the city for an expansion team.

“I think whenever I’m asked that question, I make the same comments,” he said. “The Pacific Northwest, we think is a good hockey area. I think the Vancouver Canucks have done extraordinarily well in developing that area as a good hockey market. Doesn’t mean we’re going to expand there, doesn’t mean we’ve made any decisions in that regard.

“I said the same thing about Quebec City. I also believe it’s a very good hockey market with a very strong and passionate fan base. So there’s nothing more I can say on expansion than we did [at the NHL Board of Governors meetings] in Pebble Beach, which is at some point in time it might be an appropriate consideration for us to bring to the board. But we haven’t reached that yet.”




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