TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said time is running out to reach a deal to send players to the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, casting doubt on the league's return to that event after skipping it in 2018.
The league, players' union, International Olympic Committee and International Ice Hockey Federation continue to negotiate with the Olympics seven months away. Bettman and Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said Monday night that the pandemic and disruption to next season are among the concerns, along with the lack of an agreement.
“We have real concerns about whether it’s sensible,” Bettman said, noting the league will go if a deal can be reached. “We’re getting to be on a rather short timeframe."
Bettman added time is running short on making a commitment, with the NHL hoping to release its schedule for next season before the July 23 draft.
“We’re already past the time that we hoped this would be resolved,” he said during his annual pre-Stanley Cup Final availability with the media. “We'll deal with it, just as we've managed to be agile and flexible over the last 15 months. But we're getting to be on a rather short time frame now, because this can't go on indefinitely.”
Daly called discussions with Olympic officials as a work in progress. Among the outstanding issues for the NHL and the NHL Players' Association are health insurance and travel costs as well as access to marketing rights.
The NHL has also expressed concern over the benefit of shutting down its regular season for two weeks when the Olympics are held in Asia. Games are played in the early morning hours in North America due to the time difference.
International Ice Hockey Federation president Rene Fasel told The Associated Press he hoped a resolution can be reached with the NHL and its players to compete in Beijing. He said the NHL currently has two schedules in place for next season, one featuring an Olympic break and another one not.
“Things are going back and forth, but no stress. We’ll see,” Fasel said by phone. “I cannot speak for the NHL and I just hope they will say they will come. That’s it.”
In other news:
— The league announced it will hold All-Star Weekend in Las Vegas in 2022, with exact dates to be determined.
— The Minnesota Wild will host St. Louis in the 13th Winter Classic at Target Field, the home of Major League Baseball's Twins, on Jan. 1. The Wild had been awarded the 2021 showcase but the schedule was shortened to 56 games and play didn't begin until late January. The Wild hosted an outdoor game in 2016, against Chicago at the University of Minnesota’s football stadium.
The NHL Stadium Series will see Nashville hosting Tampa Bay on Feb. 26 at Nissan Stadium, the home of the NFL's Tennessee Titans.
Wawrow reported from Montreal. AP Sports Writer Dave Campbell contributed.
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