Now it’s just up to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and IOC President Rene Fasel to hammer out a deal.
Toews told TSN’s Frank Seravalli “quite frankly, to turn on the Olympics next year and watch the hockey teams and the players representing their country — if it’s not the best in the world, I don’t know, I feel like we’re misrepresenting our sport on a pretty huge scale, on a pretty huge level.”
Toews is part of select group, including Crosby, Shea Weber, and coach Mike Babcock, who could win their third-straight Olympic gold medal in Pyeongchang. Toews believes the Olympics are on a “whole other level” than the World Cup and World Championships.
Pyeongchang would be the first chance for McDavid to represent Canada at the professional level. He told Seravalli that, after playing for Team North America at the World Cup, having a chance to represent his country “would be everything.”
“Just to get a chance to chase down a spot on the team and have that opportunity, it would be very special. But we’re very fortunate in Canada to have a long list of great Canadian players. It’d be a tough team to make.”
While the players appear to be a united front, as evidenced by the chatter at the All-Star Game, the NHL’s board of governors and owners are not in agreement. Many owners are not interested in taking a two-week break in the schedule with the potential for their superstars to come back hurt, like John Tavares did in 2014. Despite this, some owners are clearly supportive, like Ted Leonsis. The Capitals’ owner has be vocal about the players going, even saying he would allow Ovechkin to go regardless of official NHL participation.
Negotiations have not gone smoothly so far. The IOC initially said it wouldn’t cover insurance and travel costs for NHL players, but then found funds to do so. That didn’t go over well with Bettman, who said the IOC “opened a can of worms” with the NHL board of governors by appearing to not value the NHL’s participation, according to Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston.
Earlier this season, the NHL offered the Olympics to the PA as part of a deal that would see the current CBA extended by three years, but that was shot down without much consideration. The subject reportedly came up again at the board of governors’ meeting over the weekend, but talk lasted “just ten seconds.”
The NHL, it seems, would prefer to skip 2018 but return for 2022 in China. The league is already looking at hosting games in China as it looks to expand its presence in Asia.
Time is becoming an issue, as the Games are already just a year away. However, this wasn’t a problem in Turino or Sochi, writes CBC’s Tim Wharnsby, as the NHL didn’t officially agree to go until the summer before.
Despite the negativity surrounding negotiations, Crosby remains optimistic, telling ESPN’s Craig Custance that “you have to trust at the end of the day, everyone is going to work hard to make sure it can happen.”
It’s hard to imagine the NHL not going, especially with its biggest stars being so passionate about attending. Either way, the decision is approaching.