The high-priced talent at the Canadian men's Olympic orientation camp next week will be covered in the event of injury.
Hockey Canada increased its coverage so players will be fully insured for the length of their contracts for all 82 regular-season games in a season. Previously, they were covered for their salaries for the final 52 games of the regular season.
"We wanted them to be at ease at this camp," Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson said Friday at a news conference. "It was a big step. It was more money than we expected.
"I think it's going to be great news to the players because now they have only one thing to focus on. This is the first step towards getting ready for 2010."
The four-day camp opens Monday. Forty-six players have been invited, although Anaheim forward Ryan Getzlaf isn't expected to skate because he's recovering from off-season surgery.
The cost of fully insuring the players is significant as over US$200 million in 2009-10 salaries will be skating on the Pengrowth Saddledome ice next week. Philadelphia Flyers forward Michael Richards, for example, has a 12-year contract worth $69 million.
Nicholson said the price of full insurance doubled the original estimates.
"I can tell you one thing we are going to do is we're going to have full medicals," he said. "We'd do that anyway, but we really have to watch that now. We're going to make sure everyone is 100 per cent before they go on the ice."
The NHL Players' Association recommended last month that players skip the on-ice portion of Olympic orientation camps.
The NHLPA didn't believe Hockey Canada provided enough insurance to cover players' current contracts and potential future earning power in the event of an injury, saying they would be taking an "unwarranted and unnecessary risk.
The NHL also weighed in, stating that if players were injured during Olympic camps and unable to play for their respective clubs, they would be in violation of their contracts.
The NHLPA changed its tune with Friday's announcement and commended Hockey Canada's move.
"The health and well-being of our members is of paramount importance to this Association, and our members would have been exposed to significant risk without the full coverage that is now being provided," PA executive director Paul Kelly said in a statement.
Nicholson hopes to make $400,000 from Thursday's intrasquad game at the Saddledome to defray the cost of player insurance.
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