(Reuters) – The NHL has expressed a willingness to take part in the 2018 Winter Olympics if the union representing its players agrees to extend the current labor deal, Canadian sports network TSN reported on Wednesday.
NHL Players’ Association chief Donald Fehr, who met with the NHL and International Ice Hockey Federation in New York on Wednesday to discuss the possibility of the league sending players to the Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, did not deny an offer was made, the report said.
“There have been some suggestions which could be construed that that discussion would be worth having,” Fehr said in the TSN report. “Obviously, we would discuss that with players. We have begun that process, but we’re a long way from done.”
The current 10-year collective bargaining agreement expires in 2022 and both the NHL and NHLPA have the option in 2019 of notifying each other on opting out in 2020.
The TSN report said NHL players are unsatisfied with the current arrangement which calls for 16 per cent of their paychecks to be set aside in escrow to ensure a proper 50/50 revenue split with league owners.
The NHL, which has sent players to the last five Winter Olympics, was not immediately available for comment.
The participation of NHL players in Pyeongchang has been thrown into doubt after the International Olympic Committee said it would no longer cover insurance and travel costs, which have been widely estimated at around $10 million.
Increasingly unhappy about shutting down operations in the middle of the season and turning their most valuable assets over to national team duty, NHL owners believe they are seeing little return on their Olympic investment.
According to TSN, IIHF President Rene Fasel said after Wednesday’s meeting that he was returning to the governing body’s Zurich headquarters with “more work to do” and was not any more optimistic about NHL participation in the Games.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said this week that there is little chance the league’s 30 owners will agree to interrupt a season for 17 days if the IOC does not cover the costs of sending players to Pyeongchang.
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Larry Fine)