BOCA RATON, Fla. – The NHL isn’t any closer to the 2018 Olympics — but 2022 remains a possibility.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman met with media following the conclusion of the GM meetings in Boca Raton, Fla., and said there was no progress on NHL players attending the Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, less than one year from now.
“There’s absolutely nothing new,” said Bettman on Wednesday morning.
“And I think the overwhelming sentiment of the teams is that it’s very disruptive on the season and there’s somewhere between fatigue and negativity on the subject.”
Bettman said no meetings were scheduled with either the International Ice Hockey Federation or the International Olympic Committee.
He said the NHL was focused at the moment on an 2017-18 schedule that didn’t include the Olympics, but would feature a revamped bye week period.
“Unless something changes we’re not going,” deputy commissioner Bill Daly said. “We’ve said that consistently for three months so there’s nothing new about that.”
The NHL conceded that discussions were ongoing in regards to the 2022 Games in Beijing. Daly said owners saw more potential attending in China, what with its vastly bigger audience.
“It’s not the exact same equation in 2022,” Daly said. “Certainly there’s a little more business opportunity in the Chinese Games, (but) it creates the same disruption (to the season).”
If players don’t attend the 2018 Olympics the bye week will proceed next year but in a different manner than this season. Bettman said the league would give the five-day mandated period of time off one more chance to work before scrapping it entirely.
Under the new arrangement — which requires NHL Players Association approval — half the league would be off for one bye week with the other half of teams to follow afterward.
“We’re very concerned about it and that’s why we’ll try it in another format and if that doesn’t work I think our view will be its had its day and that was enough,” Bettman said.
There was consternation among clubs about the effect the current format was having on scheduling and performance, among other things. This was the first season that the bye week was instituted; clubs saw their bye week times varied from December until February.
The GMs did arrive at one slight tweak to the rules to recommend to the competition committee — timeouts will no longer be permitted following an icing call.
Bettman also addressed the Arizona Coyotes’ uneasy situation, stating that the league was committed to the club remaining the greater Phoenix area but not in Glendale given current uncertainties with regard to the arena. The Coyotes are on a year-to-year lease with the city on Gila River Arena after a long-term agreement was cancelled in 2015.
“We have not given up on that market,” Bettman said. “But we wanted to make clear that the long-term future and viability of that team, the Coyotes, isn’t going to be in Glendale.”
Bettman sent a letter to Arizona politicians earlier in the week expressing similar concerns.