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Bettman, Fehr, Fasel address future Olympic participation for NHL

Feb 18, 2014, 3:26 AM EDT

Around the Games: Day 11 - 2014 Winter Olympic Games Getty Images

SOCHI, Russia — Let’s start with a direct quote from NHL commissioner Gary Bettman:

“I don’t want to get into what the pros and cons are for participating. Everybody knows them, and they’ve been debated ad nauseam. We are here because we think it’s great to be here today at this tournament. What comes next we’ll all have to figure out, as we’ve done each of the other times that the NHL players have participated.”

Because that, folks, is the most important takeaway from today’s press conference that featured Bettman, NHLPA chief Donald Fehr, and IIHF president René Fasel. Anyone who figured we’d learn something more definitive about the future of NHL participation in the Olympics was left disappointed, and was probably a bit naive to figure that in the first place.

“It’s nothing that’s been discussed. It’s nothing that will be discussed while we’re here in Sochi.” said Bettman of the potential to send NHLers to Pyeongchang, South Korea, in 2018.

“From our standpoint, we have a process we go through,” said Fehr. “We have a significant time period which we talk to the players, digest what they have to say, figure out what they want, and then they tell me what they’d like me to do, and we try and make that happen. And that process will play out after the Games.”

The most entertaining part of today’s affair came near the end, when Fasel — a big supporter of maintaining NHL participation — said, “There is nothing like an Olympic gold medal in the life of an athlete. Nothing.”

To which Bettman responded, “Except perhaps winning the Stanley Cup.”

So failing any actual hard answers, at least there were some laughs.

At this point, the ball seems very much in the court of the players. As we wrote last week, if NHLers want to keep coming to the Olympics, they need to make that clear.

“None of this moves forward at all, if it moves forward at all, if the players don’t want to play,” said Bettman. “The reason we’re here in the first instance is this is a game with a history and tradition of international competition and our players, NHL players, love representing their countries. And so, if the players ever said, ‘We’re not interested,’ we’re not going to ever force them to go.”

As for when the decision will be made? Fehr employed a famous legal phrase: “I think it will be done…with all deliberate speed. You do it as fast as you can, but in a democratic organization, you have to do it at the rate the players are prepared to do it. All the players.”

Bettman backed the time frame of six months that was proposed by deputy commissioner Bill Daly.

“As a logistical matter, subject to what Don said, we don’t see why it couldn’t be done in that time frame,” said Bettman. “Frankly, if we’re going to continue to participate, having as long a runway as possible to use the advantages would be a good thing. And if we’re not going to participate, giving the various national federations an opportunity to adjust to that, giving them as much time as possible would be good.”

Related: NHL, NHLPA taking wait-and-see approach to 2018 Winter Olympics

  1. opattytheirishrover - Feb 18, 2014 at 5:29 AM

    Mister Gary!! You sly dog. Quick witted quips such as “…except the stanly cup” give you a standing ovation from this mild-mannered clover stomper.

    Is there any way that we could make sure he gets the message that while I agree with his statement…these Olympics are so ridiculously fun to watch!

    Much more fun than any other sports all-star game, in my opinion anyway.

    • blomfeld - Feb 18, 2014 at 10:13 PM

      SELLING SURFBOARDS TO ESKIMOS ?

      The bottom line is that NHL hockey has ‘positively’ no future in the Korean peninsula, or even Asia ‘at large’ for that matter. And so any/all ‘effort and expense’ on the part of the NHL in terms of going to Pyeongchang in 2018 will amount to nothing more than ‘squandered’ cash … or ‘pissing it out the window’ if you will. I therefore believe that Gary will do the ‘right’ thing here and tell the IOC to go fly a kite ! … at least until 2022.

      so sorry ‘South’ Korea …. :(

  2. Jeff - Feb 18, 2014 at 5:51 AM

    Olympic hockey was better when NHLers weren’t playing in the Olympics.

    • ethanmacleod1685 - Feb 18, 2014 at 6:09 AM

      Die!

    • paperlions - Feb 18, 2014 at 7:44 AM

      No it wasn’t. Every traditional Olympic sport has athletes that are as professional as one can be in their discipline. Why people would not want to watch the best compete is beyond me. If the best players are playing, who cares who wins?

    • pastabelly - Feb 18, 2014 at 8:20 AM

      The quality of Olympic hockey has never been better or more balanced. The only reason for not going is the two-week stoppage of NHL hockey. The league still plays a full schedule and shouldn’t lose out by participating. To me, this is playoff hockey in February and a better chance to see players in the Western Conference up close. There really is no downside to this. If the US were to pull it off and win another gold in hockey, it would mean even more growth of the sport here and just more positives from USA Hockey, which has given my son so much, even though playing in a good house league is his level.

    • 7mantel - Feb 18, 2014 at 8:26 AM

      Defiantly , I guess the nay sayers are not old enough to witness the excitement of the true Olympics !

      • pastabelly - Feb 18, 2014 at 9:17 AM

        Other than 1980, Olympic hockey was all about Eastern Europe “amateur” hockey. You are only fooling yourself if you think that’s better hockey than what you see today.

      • 7mantel - Feb 18, 2014 at 9:41 AM

        how much of that hockey did you watch ?

    • dueman - Feb 18, 2014 at 10:06 AM

      Olympic hockey is, and will always be great to watch simply because you get to root for one’s country. Whether the NHL participates or not will not change that fact, but to claim that the hockey was better when the NHL players didn’t play is ridiculous. The Olympics are supposed to be an event in which athletes compete to claim the title of being the best in the World while representing their country. Without the NHLers participating, that claim cannot be made. I’ll still watch to support the athletes, but in no way, shape, or form, is the hockey better without the NHL players involved.

  3. sclairebear - Feb 18, 2014 at 6:03 AM

    Bettman’s just angry because the quality of hockey is so much better than in the NHL. Hard-hitting and fast hockey without the needless, time-wasting scrums and fights. Now everyone can see how bogus the argument is that fighting is needed to keep the players from making cheap shots. There have been 3 rounds played and maybe 1 dirty hit.

  4. joey4id - Feb 18, 2014 at 7:20 AM

    Anyone missing the fighting yet? I haven’t seen a game yet, but I suspect most the real hockey fans are not missing them. Nice to see PHT articles void of fighting clips. Go Price!

    • 7mantel - Feb 18, 2014 at 8:31 AM

      No fighting but more stick work

  5. paperlions - Feb 18, 2014 at 7:46 AM

    If the NHL could make one change, I would love to see them go to the larger ice surface. More room for players to show their skill. I know this won’t happen because all of the arena’s were built for NHL sized ice; but I like the game on a bigger sheet of ice.

  6. matthewmacisaac - Feb 18, 2014 at 9:02 AM

    The pros should not go. The reason for them going was that the Russians were sending a pro team against amateur teams for years. Now, between the NHL & KHL, the best Russians are also pros, so there is no longer a distinct advantage. The world juniors is a great tournament, so why not keep it amateur for the Olympics. It would further develop the kids coming up and wouldn’t screw up the NHL regular season. For those saying the NHL still plays a full slate, while that is true it causes teams to play more back to backs, which leads to some sloppy games. The “Miracle on Ice” was so outstanding because it was a bunch of kids playing an established team of pros and beating them. The odds were definitely stacked against them. That’s why it was such a great win, way better than the just completed win over the Russians.

    • pastabelly - Feb 18, 2014 at 9:26 AM

      Then enjoy the World Juniors or even the NCAA Hockey Championships. Those are still there. In the mean time, seeing the best in the world compete at the highest level for their countries only happens every four years in the Olympics. 1980 will never be matched, but the US-Russia game last weekend, even though only a preliminary game, goes up there on any list of memorable Olympic events and an instant classic. I don’t understand why you want to take that away.

  7. patshal - Feb 18, 2014 at 9:20 AM

    Are you kidding me. I want to see the best players to see which nation actually IS the best. The goal of the Olympics is to see which country is the best. With college players, you don’t have the best players. It’s stupid to have children representing their nation.

  8. stonebullet - Feb 18, 2014 at 9:30 AM

    I’m entertained by this hockey, but USA winning or losing has zero impact on me as a hockey fan. I want my pro team to win the Stanley Cup. In the States, if you had to pick between your life long team winning a Stanley Cup or the USA gold medal I bet it’s 80%+ people vote for the Cup. “Miracle” (amateurs against the world) will never happen again. As entertaining as Olympic hockey is, the actual win will never be the same again. I’m rooting for my USA, but if they don’t win I’m more than ready for the road to the Cup.

    • dueman - Feb 18, 2014 at 10:15 AM

      You don’t have to pick between them…

  9. kgod30 - Feb 18, 2014 at 9:50 AM

    The Olympics are only helping to grow the sport globally and the participation of the NHL players is a positive. DON’T RUIN A GOOD THING! THE NHL MUST CONTINUE TO PARTICIPATE.

  10. jimw81 - Feb 18, 2014 at 10:48 AM

    this just confirms what i said last week. there are enough owners lead by snider that will block further participation in the Olympics because it hurts the league financially and hurts the owners like snider who have a hard time booking the arena when they do the Olympics.

    • jpelle82 - Feb 18, 2014 at 2:37 PM

      that and you now have guys like zucarello and zetterberg returning home with injuries to bubble teams competing for the playoffs. kopecky gets concussed. selanne gets banged up in game 1. datsyuk is one bad fall away from being out another 15 games for the wings. i’d say the owners would be plenty right to fight against participation. just think if a goalie like rask or lundquist got hurt for any period of time, the bruins/rangers would be screwed. theres a lot of money made from playoff hockey, if i were an owner i would hate to leave it on the table because one of my assets got hurt during a two week vacation in the middle of the season.

  11. smnick - Feb 18, 2014 at 10:51 AM

    #IceHockeySummerOlympics

    • bo1210 - Feb 18, 2014 at 1:29 PM

      I’d LOVE that, and it would solve many of the problems, but the logistics involved with both basketball AND hockey needing arenas to compete in would dictate otherwise.

      • jpelle82 - Feb 18, 2014 at 2:41 PM

        the nhl and nba work pretty well together now but with womens bball and hockey thrown into the mix it pretty much makes it impossible to do in the timeframe the olympics require. i say nix basketball anyway, no one cares about that crap.

  12. moarjam - Feb 18, 2014 at 11:10 AM

    Its bad for the NHL. They have to shut down for two weeks, teams run the risk of their players getting hurt and owners have empty arenas for this time. There are almost no positives. It does not grow the sport. Much like the World Cup in America, the majority of people watch it for the 2 weeks that its on and then nothing until the next WC comes in 4 years.

    FIFA doesn’t let their players participate in the Olympics because they have their own World Cup. How is this any different from what the NHL is trying to do here? It will be the same thing except in the summer and the NHL doesn’t need to shut down.

  13. mrhyperpants - Feb 18, 2014 at 8:07 PM

    moarjam, your wrong FIFA does let players form the leagues around the world play in the Olympics. Not all the big names go in it though. However, Garth Bale play for team GB in 2012 and he is the most expensive player I. The world.

  14. mrhyperpants - Feb 18, 2014 at 8:12 PM

    Bettman is a rude C U Next Tuesday. Not that I though much of him in the first place. I think even less of him now. The way he kept going on about lifting the Stanley cup. Some seriously needs to knock this clown out.

    • blomfeld - Feb 18, 2014 at 10:18 PM

      BETTMAN ROCKS !!!!!!!!!!

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