NHL Commissioner Mum on Olympics Participation

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Orange County Register (California)


Gary Bettman couldn't say Saturday whether the NHL would participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics. The NHL commissioner couldn't say when or where the next All-Star Game would be because there won't be one if the league decides to send its players to Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Bettman couldn't say when or where the 2017-18 season would start because there has been some scuttlebutt that the Kings could play in China. He couldn't say whether the Kings would be the first opponent of the expansion Vegas Golden Knights if the overseas trip doesn't happen.

He lauded the growth of hockey in California, tying it to the successful grass-roots outreach of the Kings, Ducks and Sharks. He said the number of registered players in the state grew from 3,400 in 1981, when the Kings first hosted the All-Star Game to more than 28,000 today.

He declined to say anything new about concussions and the impact they have had on players past and present. He did say he believed current players receive the best medical care available, which includes new observers who can ask that a player be taken from the ice to be examined.

He did say the NHL wasn't looking to follow the NBA and allow advertising on jerseys. Several NBA teams, including the Boston Celtics, announced recently they would begin wearing small advertising patches on their uniforms.

"It would take an unusual circumstance" to change his mind, Bettman said, referring to money.

As expected, Bettman didn't have a great deal to say about anything of substance, especially the Olympics and concussions, during a news conference at Staples Center, a day before the All-Star Game would be hosted by the Kings for the third time in their history.

Bettman's unwillingness to speak about the NHL's participation in the Olympics with the Games a little more than year away underscored the uncertainty of the situation. The NHL has sent its players to the Olympics since the 1998 Games in Nagano, Japan.

"We're not the ones setting deadlines," he said when asked when a decision might be made.

Bettman said the NHL's Board of Governors spent "about 10 seconds" talking about the Olympics during their meeting Saturday because there was nothing new to report. Money is the issue, most likely the only one holding up the decision whether to play or not to play.

Last month, Bettman offered to allow the players to go to Pyeongchang if they would agree to a three-season extension of the collective bargaining agreement. The players' union turned it down, largely because they aren't entirely happy with the bargain struck after the 2012-13 lockout.

Bettman isn't pleased the league has been asked to cover the costs of its participation in the Olympics, which the International Olympic Committee had picked up in the past but won't for 2018. The International Ice Hockey Federation as well as NBC have offered to pick up the tab, however.

In November, Bettman said he'd like the matter resolved by the end of January.

As of Saturday, there was no sign of an agreement to go or not go, however.

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January 30, 2017


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