NHL Commissioner doubts league will ever participate at Winter Olympics held outside North America

NHL Commissioner doubts league will ever participate at Winter Olympics held outside North America
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National Hockey League (NHL) commissioner Gary Bettman has revealed that they are unlikely to return to the programme for any Winter Olympic Games held outside North America.

This makes it unlikely that they will appear at the following edition in Beijing in 2022 and deems 2026 – where Calgary in Canada and several United States venues are interested but not committed – as the soonest potential return date.

Bettman blamed restrictions on Olympic promotion and claimed that interest among NHL clubs had always been mixed.

The world’s leading league announced in April that their players would not travel to South Korea for Pyeongchang 2018.

This meant they would miss out on competing at the event for the first time since their debut appearance at Nagano 1998.

It had been thought, however, that they were keener to return to Beijing due to the commercial opportunities offered in the Chinese market.

“We think it’s the right decision for a major break in our season, I’m very comfortable with the decision and I think that for the NHL fans it’s the right decision,” Bettman told SVT Sport in Sweden.

“I think it’s the right decision for the NHL fans.

“I never say never [that we will not return], but I find it hard to envision a scenario where it makes sense, unless, possibly, if the Winter Games are back in North America where the time frame and the attention and the logistics, travel, are a lot different.”

The International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) refusal to continue covering travel and insurance costs of NHL players was blamed for the failure to reach a deal for Pyeongchang.

The International Ice Hockey Federation did subsequently offer to cover these fees, but, after a deal was not reached, IOC President Thomas Bach said this was “off the table” for both Pyeongchang 2018 and Beijing 2022.

“There were a handful of clubs that said, ‘Oh, Olympics – great,” Bettman added today in comments reported by ESPN.

“There were a handful of clubs, a bigger handful, that said, ‘This is really too disruptive.’

“Then the group in the middle said, ‘ehh.’

“Then when the IOC took the position that they didn’t want to pay the expenses, the reaction from all the teams was, ‘Wait, we need to re-evaluate this.’

“If they don’t value our participation, why are we disrupting our season?’”

He reportedly also complained about the IOC rules prohibiting the promotion of Olympic footage, citing the example of Sidney Crosby’s overtime goal to give Canada a home victory at Vancouver 2010.

“This came down to exposure and being able to promote the fact that we’re there,” Bettman was quoted as saying.

“Sidney Crosby‘s goal in Vancouver – we’re not allowed to use that footage – think about that.”

An Exploratory Committee has been set-up in Salt Lake City, hosts in 2002, to look into a possible United States bid for either the 2026 or 2030 editions of the Winter Games.

Denver and Reno in Nevada are other American cities mooted to be interested.

Candidates will be officially chosen by the IOC next October before a host is selected in 2019.

Nick Butler, insidethegames.biz

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