Fehr, Bettman send two different messages on Olympic participation

In the lead up to the Centennial Classic in Toronto, both Donald Fehr and Gary Bettman were addressing the NHL player participation in the 2018 Olympics.

Fehr, the Executive Director of the NHL Players Association, was the first to get his organization’s message out to the public.

From Frank Seravalli of TSN:

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Pierre LeBrun of ESPN followed up with more information:

“I’m more optimistic now that I ever have been, at least as far as we’re concerned, that we’ll be able to reach an appropriate agreement with the IIHF to allow for the players to go,” Fehr, the executive director of the NHL Players’ Association, told assembled media before the Centennial Classic.

“So I assume there will be further discussions over the course of the next several weeks and I choose to be optimistic on this one. We’ll see.’”

Asked why exactly he felt more optimistic now, Fehr didn’t really have specific reasons.

“You get a sense of things as they go along, you get a sense of things and how they’re likely to end up; doesn’t mean you’re always right, but you get a sense of things,” said Fehr.

Shortly after the NHLPA news hit, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman sat down alongside Wayne Grezky for an interview with David Amber of Sportsnet.

At the end of the segment, Amber asked Bettman for an update on the NHL players going to the Olympics.

“There’s been no update. We haven’t set the time table,” said Bettman. “We haven’t had any communications from the International Ice Hockey Federation or the International Olympic Committee.

“The Players Association made clear that there was nothing on the horizon before the last board meeting, and I gave the Governors an update.

“There’s a lot of concern about the disruption, the wear and tare on the players – both during the regular season with the compressed schedule and during the Olympic break. There is a lot of concern about continuing our involvement because of how disruptive it’s been.”

Amber followed up asking what the next step is in the process.

“Don’t really know,” said Bettman.

“We’re waiting to see if there is any new information; anything that might cause the owners to focus on the experience a little differently.”

Bettman works for the owners and he’s doing his job. However, it’s not lost on anyone that the NHL wants to make money – or at least not lose any money – during the Olympic break.

The argument about the wear and tear on the players and the condensed schedule is a moot point given the World Cup of Hockey has caused a similar condensed schedule in the league this season in addition to the ‘bye week’ given to each team. Plus, the wear and tear on the players from the World Cup and the condensed schedule is evident.

The big difference is the league made money from the World Cup, and the bottom line is all the league and the owners care about.

“… absent some compelling reason I’m not sure there’s a whole lot of sentiment on the part of the clubs to go through the disruption of taking three almost weeks off during the season, said Bettman to LeBrun.  “We’ve been there, done that five times and while Vancouver and Salt Lake City were different, when you’re halfway around the world it’s not the easiest thing to have in our season.”

LeBrun added, “Fehr suggested Sunday that perhaps the players would be interested in a long-term international package with the NHL that is separate of the CBA.”

We have to take what both sides are taking with a grain of salt. Each side is trying to win the PR battle and post the other as the enemy.

Put your boxing gloves and get ready for a fight.