After months of debate, disagreement, and uncertainty, it seems that the National Hockey League is coming closer to an agreement allowing its players to participate in the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.
On Friday, the NHL, along with the NHLPA, International Ice Hockey Federation, and the IIHF Member National Associations met with the International Olympic Committee, the Sochi2014 Organizing Committee, and the National Olympic Committees to further the process.
NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly addressed the meeting with a resounding sense of optimism.
We are proceeding under the assumption that the NHL will participate in Sochi.” Daly said. “We are still working on important issues with the IIHF and the IOC, and subject to our board of governors’ consideration and approval, it remains the objective that Sochi will be the fifth consecutive Olympics with NHL participation and where the NHL shuts down for the duration of the Olympic tournament.”
- All participating players will travel by charter from four North American hubs to Sochi.
- The last day of play prior to the Olympic break is scheduled for February 8th, 2014. Approximately half of the NHL’s 30 teams will play that day, the other half on February 7th.
- The selected players will depart for Sochi on February 8th or 9th. They will arrive on the 10th with Tuesday, February 11th being a full practice day. The men’s tournament opens on February 12th.
- The NHL will resume its regular season schedule on February 25th, which is two days after the Gold Medal Game in Sochi.
Another key issue from the NHL is Player Safety.
There is obviously a risk involved when you bring over a projected 160-180 NHL players where the total contract value would be around $3 billion.” Daly said. “This is a risk which must be insured, especially in cases of season-ending or career-ending injuries.”
There has been no definitive date set as to when a final confirmation of NHL participation in the Games may come; however, he ended his presentation with the following:
Hopefully sometime soon we will be able to give the recommendation to our Board of Governors regarding our league’s Olympic participation.”
Unlike the negotiations that took place during this year’s dreaded NHL Lockout, it seems like the NHL and the NHLPA are on the same page. Tyler Currie, Director of International Affairs for the NHLPA, shared Deputy Commissioner Daly’s sense of optimism.
All parties are committed to making this happen, but there are still key logistical issues to be solved. We have some unique challenges that will require creative solutions.”
IIHF Sports Director Dave Fitzpatrick announced that all participating countries will be asked to announce their tentative rosters five to six weeks prior to the beginning of the Games.
Schedules for both the Men’s and Women’s tournaments are expected to be announced later this month.
Are you excited with the progress that the NHL has made towards allowing its players to participate in the game? Would you be as interested in the Men’s tournament should the NHL players be disallowed from the games? Do you agree with the NHL’s concerns regarding the league’s participation? Sound off in the comments below and let us know how you feel.