NHL owners debate participation in 2018 Olympics in South Korea

The league’s governors will need to determine the next step in the Olympic process after a recent proposal to the NHL Players’ Association – exchanging participation in the Games for an extension of the current collective bargaining agreement – was rejected.Though players want to return for a sixth successive Olympics appearance in Pyeongchang, the league has been reluctant to commit, citing, among other things, money, North American viewership concerns and the general hassle of shutting down the regular season for more than two weeks.NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has said the league would like to resolve the issue by early January at the latest.A likely contender to play for the Americans again in 2018, van Riemsdyk hopes decision makers see the bigger picture with respect to the Olympics.“If you take a long-term view of growth of the game and untapped markets and that sort of thing, and just trying to get more eyes on hockey, more people exposed to the game, you can’t beat the Olympics for something like that, especially in where it is,” van Riemsdyk said, referring to South Korea as well as the 2022 Games in China.“I think it’d be great for us to be there,” he added. “But that being said some of those decisions are obviously a little bit outside of our hands.”In discussions between the leagues and players’ association last month, the NHL said it would green-light participation in 2018 if the players agreed to extend the current collective bargaining agreement by three years and eliminate a potential opt-out clause in the fall of 2019.That would have extended the collective agreement until 2025 had the players agreed.NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr said in an exclusive interview with the Canadian Press last week that conversations internally regarding the league’s idea were “very, very short.”Agreeing to extend the CBA without tweaks and proper discussion among players just didn’t make sense on their side, especially for the limited return of the Olympics, which NHL players have attended since 1998.“There are a lot of things we want to examine with the players before we get into bargaining,” Fehr said.Still, the proposal did inspire hope among players that the two sides could strike early to avoid another lockout in 2020.Van Riemsdyk, the Leafs player representative, noted with envy how the NBA and its players were seemingly on the verge of a new CBA well ahead of expiration.The NHL locked out its players in 2004 and then again in 2012.“No one wants to stop the game,” van Riemsdyk said. We want to be out there playing. Just to get a chance to be a part of all that was really special.”NHL participation at the 2018 Olympics in South Korea is likely to headline the upcoming board of governors meeting, which begins Thursday in West Palm Beach. “We’re players. James van Riemsdyk went to the Stanley Cup final with the Philadelphia Flyers in 2010, but he also considers his appearance with the United States at the 2014 Olympics special and career-defining in a different kind of way.“It’s so hard to make an Olympic team,” said van Riemsdyk, the Toronto Maple Leafs winger who tied for third in scoring at the Sochi Games. Maybe this will lead to some good dialogue that we can figure out a way to get something done before we have to deal with another lockout or something.” “On that stage too, it’s bigger than just the sport of hockey and just yourself; there’s so many other athletes and things there.