NHL's Bill Daly on Players Going to Olympics: 'Negatives Outweigh the Positives'

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistFebruary 11, 2020

BRATISLAVA, SLOVAKIA - MAY 25: #8 Alexander Ovechkin of Russia reacts during the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Slovakia semi final game between Russia and Finland at Ondrej Nepela Arena on May 25, 2019 in Bratislava, Slovakia. (Photo by RvS.Media/Robert Hradil/Getty Images)
RvS.Media/Robert Hradil/Getty Images

NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said Monday the league isn't close to an agreement to make its players available for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

Daly shot down recent speculation about the NHL's potential participation in the Games in an email to John Wawrow of the Associated Press.

"We aren't there yet. In fact, we aren't even close to being there," Daly wrote. "At this point in time, we continue to believe that the negatives outweigh the positives."

National Hockey League Players' Association executive director Don Fehr and Anaheim Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf both expressed concern the league was using the Olympics as a bargaining chip with collective bargaining agreement talks scheduled for this week in Toronto.

"I can't figure out why anybody would not want to go and take advantage of this opportunity because it doesn't come around every day," Fehr told Wawrow. "We think and have always thought that a matter like this should be addressed on its own merits, and it seems to us that the merits on this one are crystal-clear, pellucidly clear."

Getzlaf added: "Why do you think that is? They're a business. If they put that into negotiations, that means it's a leverage chip for them that they're going to try to use against us."

The NHL pulled its participation from the Olympics, which take place during the middle of the regular season, ahead of the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

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Washington Capitals superstar Alex Ovechkin was adamant he was going to represent Russia despite the league's decision, but he ultimately released a statement confirming he couldn't take part.

"I said every time I was asked since last Olympics that nobody is going to tell me I can't play because my country was going to be allowed to ask me," Ovechkin said in 2017. "Now the IIHF and NHL say my country is not allowed to ask anybody in the NHL to play, and there is nothing to talk about anymore."

Led by former NHL stars Pavel Datsyuk and Ilya Kovalchuk, who has since returned to the league, the Olympic Athletes from Russia—the designation given to Russian athletes cleared to compete despite the country's ban for state-sponsored doping—captured the gold medal.

Unfortunately, men's ice hockey transformed from one of the Winter Games' premier events into an afterthought since most of the world's top players weren't in attendance.

The current NHL CBA runs through September 2022, and Fehr told Wawrow he's hopeful the posturing when it comes to the Olympics "will give way to the facts and circumstances."

"We participated in five consecutive Olympic Games," Daly said, "beginning long before Don was involved in our league. We have a pretty good sense of the positives and negatives associated with participation."

An agreement likely must get reached by next summer because the 2021-22 schedule would need to get adjusted to fit an Olympic break in February if the sides come to terms on participation.

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