The hot topic at the Molson Canadian World Hockey Summit this week has been whether the NHL will continue its involvement at the Olympics. It’s all up in the air … will we be watching the best of the best at Sochi, Russia, come 2014?
Let’s get one thing straight: Gary Bettman is smart. Damn smart.
That doesn’t mean you have to like the guy, right? The NHL commissioner knows doublespeak. He knows spin. And he knows how to leave us thinking he answered a question when he really didn’t say much of anything at all.
So are there going to be NHL players in Sochi or not, Gary?
Yes. No. I don’t know.
“The Olympics are a mixed bag,” Bettman told the WHS delegates this afternoon, during a question-and-answer session with fellow loathsome creature, TSN Pierre (Monster Mash) Maguire.
“Vancouver was very, very, very good but there are still some issues and problems. We want to keep it in balance. In Vancouver, everything was spectacular. It was good. But when the Olympics are held outside of North America, it tips to the other side of the spectrum.”
We know the issues. We went over them this morning, right? Break in the schedule, tired players … blah blah blah.
Check out these issues the NHL had in Vancouver, though:
Access to players by NHL team general managers and owners
Detroit Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch couldn’t get into whatever building he wanted to get into
What? Pardon me but boo fucking hoo. Why does Ilitch need access into whichever building he wants? Just to say hi to Henrik or Pavel?
Like he can’t go two weeks without passing them in the hallway and nodding in their general manager? Yes, I know, Ilitch is one of the most involved, engaged and interested owners in the league and one of the most powerful men in Michigan but when it comes to the Olympics, he ends up as a little fish in a big pond.
“They may sound like little things and they are, but there’s a long list of them and we’ll have to go through each one with the IOC.”
Bettman can put those little things on the grocery list of things that need to be resolved for NHL involvement but if I was sitting at that table, I’d be rolling my eyes just a tiny little bit.
It would be easier to accept NHL disengagement with the Olympics if they kept the issues to those of a serious nature.
The good news is the NHL doesn’t yet have a deadline to make a decision. There appears to be lots of time in order to come to a hard yes or no.
Part of it, says Bettman, is waiting for the IOC to determine the broadcasting rights for the Sochi Olympics.
“We have to consider how we’re going to be carried, how we’re going to be promoted, if we’re going to disappear for two weeks,” says Bettman. “Should we participate if there’s an eight-hour difference in time zones and games are played at 4 a.m. instead of two in the afternoon …
“The games that matter for our viewing audiences have to be played at times that make sense.”
OK, that’s more logical.
Because, as Bettman says, the NHL is accountable to its fans.
“It’s a mixed bag on whether they want us to participate,” he says. “Some say the Olympics hurt their teams and some say the Olympics are for amateurs and we’re possibly depriving those individuals of the opportunity.
“We started something we thought was right (in Nagano). We haven’t no. I’m not anti-Olympics. We have to re-evaluate, evaluate and then decide at the appropriate time.”
So there you have it.
Will the NHL be involved in the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, in 2014?