If NHL players are going to participate in the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics, it’s not likely to come by way of extending the collective bargaining agreement. Or at least not in the way the owners have initially offered.
It was reported in mid-November that, after the IIHF had secured funding to send the players to the tournament in South Korea, the league and its owners would be willing to acquiesce to the players’ interest in participating in the upcoming Olympics if the NHLPA would be willing to accept a three-year extension of the current CBA.
According to Darren Dreger, appearing on NBCSN’s coverage on Wednesday night, no formal offer was made by the league or the owners, with commissioner Gary Bettman instead making a verbal offer to extend the CBA to NHLPA executive director Don Fehr. The agreement would have included the players being allowed to play in a number of international events, including the Olympics in both 2018 and 2022, the latter of which are set for Beijing, China.
It was an offer from the league that seemingly came out of nowhere, and the initial reaction was there was little chance the players would accept the offer. Turns out that’s exactly the case.
“The response coming back from the Players’ Association from Don Fehr next Wednesday is expected to be, ‘Thanks, but no thanks,’ ” Dreger reported Wednesday. “Players aren’t interested in extending the (CBA) an additional three years. Whether or not it goes beyond that is going to be interesting because, historically, Don Fehr has countered with a proposal, but this (proposal by the league) was somewhat informal.”
The issue of Olympic participation has been one of the major talking points throughout the summer, through the World Cup of Hockey and now into the opening months of the season. And despite the fact the NHLPA is expected to shut down this offer from the league, it almost assuredly won’t be the last we hear of the league and players talking about a way to carve out a path for the players to play in the games while keeping the owners happy.
In fact, if anything, the discussions are only going to heat up over the course of the next month and a half. In early October, Christophe Dubi, the IOC's executive director of the Olympic Games, told the Associated Press the league had a drop-dead date for reaching a decision on participation of Jan. 15.
“Until (Jan. 15) it will be work between all parties involved to make sure that we get the participation of the very best, and that's for both Pyeongchang and Beijing,” Dubi told the Associated Press.
Players have continued to express their interest in playing in the Olympics, and while none have gone as far as Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin, who said he’s playing at the tournament whether NHL players are permitted by the league or not, it’s clear they’re hoping for the Olympic issue to be resolved in a way that allows them to play in Pyeongchang if given the chance.
UPDATE: The Canadian Press' Jonas Siegel reported Friday afternoon that the NHLPA has informed its player the offer for the three-year CBA extension in exchange for Olympic participation will be rejected. NHLPA executive director Don Fehr told Siegel that the players are still hoping to "conclude an agreement to go to the Olympics" and that the NHLPA still views the Olympics as an important event for the players. According to Siegel, Fehr said the players had no interest in extending the agreement for three additional years, and the NHLPA wants to reexamine parts of the agreement.
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