After months of concern about an impending mid-January deadline for the NHL to reach a decision on whether the league will send its players to the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang, it appears the International Olympic Committee is willing to give the NHL the time it needs to reach a conclusion on Olympic participation.
In an October interview with the Associated Press, Christophe Dubi, the IOC's executive director of the Olympic Games, pointed out the positives of the NHL coming to check out the proposed site of the tournament and indicated that mid-January could be the deadline for the league to choose its course of action when it came to PyeongChang.
“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.
However, according to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, that deadline is no more. A spokesperson for the IOC told LeBrun that “no agreed final deadline” exists for the league to come to a decision on Olympic participation, and the spokesperson continued by saying the IOC would continue to “work towards a positive outcome” with the league.
In response to the IOC’s comments, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told LeBrun that it was “interesting to hear” given the league hasn’t heard from the IOC regarding the NHL sending players to the game. Daly continued by telling LeBrun that “there does not appear currently to be anywhere near the requisite support from our clubs that would be necessary for the league to commit to Olympic participation in 2018.”
That there’s no deadline in place is a major positive for fans wishing to see the league participate, as it gives both the NHL and NHLPA more time to work out a potential agreement that would allow the players to go to PyeongChang. A number of players, from Alex Ovechkin to Marc-Edouard Vlasic, have made clear their desire to play at the tournament, but the NHL and NHLPA have yet to been able to work out an agreement.
Earlier in the discussions about participation, the NHL approached the NHLPA with a potential agreement that would see the players given the right to head to the 2018 Olympics in exchange for a three-year extension of the current collective bargaining agreement. Some players openly scoffed at the offer, and it was rejected shortly after it was made.
Despite the fact NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr was openly optimistic about the chance the league would send the players to the two-week tournament, the situation has appeared bleak recently, especially with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman commenting that he didn’t feel owners throughout the league were all that enthused about shutting down the season in order to send players. That sentiment was echoed by Daly to LeBrun, and as we inch closer to the end of January, it appears the Olympic participation saga is set to continue.
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