The NHL is closer to committing its players to next year’s Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, pending the approval of team owners and provided other issues can be resolved.
Some of the details of NHL player participation were revealed Friday in Stockholm following a meeting between representatives from the NHL, NHL Players’ Association, International Ice Hockey Federation, International Olympic Committee and the Sochi organizing committee.
“We are proceeding under the assumption that the NHL will participate in Sochi,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly was quoted as saying on the IIHF website.
“We are still working on important issues with the IIHF and the IOC, and subject to our board of governors’ consideration and approval, it remains the objective that Sochi will be the fifth consecutive Olympics with NHL participation and where the NHL shuts down for the duration of the Olympic tournament.”
The NHL would go dark Feb. 9, 2014, with approximately half of the 30 NHL clubs playing their last games Feb. 8. The league would resume Feb. 25, two days after the gold-medal game.
The men’s Olympic hockey tournament starts Feb. 12.
One of the major issues to be resolved is player insurance.
“There is obviously a risk involved when you bring over a projected 160 (to) 180 NHL players where the total contract value would be around (US)$3 billion,” Daly said. “This is a risk which must be insured, especially in cases of season-ending or career-ending injuries.”
IIHF president Rene Fasel did not name a deadline for when an agreement needs to be reached.
“We are working hard to putting together the last pieces to ensure NHL players’ participation in Sochi,” Fasel said. “We have some issues left, but I, as always, remain optimistic.”
Daly also gave no indication when the NHL would give its final approval for Sochi.
“Hopefully sometime soon we will be able to give the recommendation to our board of governors regarding our league’s Olympic participation,” he said.
NHL players selected by their countries to participate in the tournament would travel by charter from four North American hubs and arrive in Sochi on Feb. 10.
The NHL wants the ability to markets its players on NHL-TV and its website during the Games, which is complicated because of television rights issues.
“We want to promote the fact that the NHL and its players are participating in the Olympics during a period when our league shuts down,” Daly said.
The NHL wants seven referees and six linesmen in Sochi, as well as a dozen of its own security personnel there.
The IIHF says teams will be asked to submit rosters five to six weeks prior to the Games. Those rosters will be increased by two skaters from the 2010 Games in Vancouver. Each country can now name 22 skaters and three goaltenders.
Canada is in a pool with Finland, Norway and Austria. The schedules for both the men’s and women’s tournaments have yet to be announced.