Bettman on Olympics: 'Assume we are not going'
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[March 22, 2017]
By Steve Keating
NEW YORK (Reuters) - NHL Commissioner
Gary Bettman said on Tuesday that with negotiations on Olympic
participation at a standstill people should assume the league will
not be sending its players to the 2018 Pyeongchang Games.
The NHL last met with the International Olympic Committee and
International Ice Hockey Federation in early February but with no
meetings on the horizon Bettman sounded a pessimistic tone.
"There are no negotiations ongoing," Bettman told Reuters at the
Sport Business Summit in New York. "We were open to having
discussions on a variety of things that might mitigate the damage to
our season but that had no resonance.
"As things stand now people should assume we are not going."
The NHL's main issues with Olympic participation center on a need
for it to shut down its season for 2-1/2 weeks, along with concerns
about player injures.
For handing over $3.5 billion in player contracts the NHL is seeking
something akin to IOC Top Sponsor status that would allow the league
to market the Winter Games on its platforms.
The NHL has also said the IOC will have to backtrack and pay player
insurance and transportation costs after saying it would no longer
do so like it had for the five previous Winter Games.
"We're not negotiating publicly," said Bettman. "The point is I was
trying to emphasize the fact that this is terribly disruptive to our
business and there seems to be no offsetting way to mitigate that
"I've suggested why don't you treat us like a top sponsor.
"When the IOC comes to us and says, 'by the way we know it cost $15
to $20 million to send your players between insurance, charter costs
and accommodations for the players' ... well we're not going to pay
"If they don't value our participation why are we going."
The NHL did not agree to go to the 2014 Olympics in Sochi until
July, 2013. The next move, if there is one, will have to be made by
the IOC or IIHF.
"From our standpoint there may not be any next steps," said Bettman.
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NHL commissioner Gary Bettman during an interview prior to the game
between the Calgary Flames and the Boston Bruins at Scotiabank
Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
While NHL owners have dug in, the IOC and IIHF have
both the players and sponsors in their corner applying pressure.
Some players have said they will compete in the Olympics regardless
of the NHL's decision, while Japanese tire maker Bridgestone, which
is both an IOC Top Sponsor and major NHL advertiser, is trying to
help push a deal forward.
"Just know there's a lot of people interested in the same thing and
seeing if there is a way to make it work," Phil Pacsi, Bridgestone's
vice president of sports marketing, told Reuters.
After participating in each of the last five Winter Games, Bettman
said there has been no quantitative benefit to the NHL.
That would be amplified at Pyeongchang, a non-hockey market where
games would be televised early in the morning in North America
during what would otherwise be a key part of the NHL's regular
"Remember, this is February, there is no baseball, no football, it
is just us and basketball and we just disappear," said Bettman. "We
don't get content for the NHL Network, we don't get content for our
social media platforms and NHL.com.
"Why did we do it five times? Well, it seemed like a good idea at
the time but we have been unable to quantify any benefit from it."
(Additional reporting by Larry Fine; Editing by Frank Pingue)
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