NHL to Remain in Arizona, Likely Skip Olympics

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The NHL is staying in Arizona but still unlikely to go to South Korea for the Olympics next year.

"We have not given up on that (Arizona) market," Commissioner Gary Bettman said at the general managers meetings Wednesday. "But we want to make clear that the long-term future viability of that team isn't going to be in Glendale."

On Tuesday, a letter from Bettman to the Arizona legislature went public in which the commissioner said the Glendale market doesn't work economically for the Coyotes. Bettman expressed support of Senate Bill 1149, which would form a public and private partnership to finance a new Coyotes arena in the East Valley or downtown Phoenix.

"It's not defiance," Bettman said. "We think (Arizona) is a good market. We think circumstances have always come together consistently where there has always been an issue. We wouldn't be having this conversation if Glendale didn't cancel their lease."

The NHL has been working to keep the Coyotes in Arizona since the team entered into bankruptcy in 2009.

"I think it's a great market," Coyotes general manager John Chayka said. "Players love playing there. I think it's good for the league. ... They have invested a lot of time and effort into that market."

Bettman said there is nothing new to report on the Olympics, meaning that unless there is movement in negotiations the NHL is not going to allow its players to go.

"I think the overwhelming sentiment of the teams is that it is very disruptive with the season," Bettman said.

He described the owners' position as being "somewhere between fatigue and negativity."

Bettman said there are no meetings scheduled with the International Olympic Committee, and he said there is no reason to set a final date to make a decision.

"Unless something changes, we're not going," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said. "We've said that consistently for three months. So there's nothing new about that."

The owners' issues with Olympic participation has always centered on the NHL having to pause its schedule for the Games. Plus, there is concern about injuries.

However, the NHL does have interest in tapping into the China market, and the 2018 Olympics in South Korea are followed by the 2022 Games in Beijing. The NHL is talking to Chinese officials about having exhibition games in China.

"It's not the same equation in 2022," Daly said. "Certainly there is more business opportunity in the Chinese Games. But it causes the same disruptions. It might be a different evaluation formula. So they're different."

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March 9, 2017


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