Olympics a Stumbling Block in Future NHL CBA Talks?

Olympics a Stumbling Block in Future NHL CBA Talks?

Last April the NHL announced it would not participate in the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. That decision didn’t sit well with the players.

Several notable stars, including Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews, New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist and Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin, were quick to express their unhappiness. The NHL Players Association released a statement calling the league’s decision shortsighted, adding the players were “extremely disappointed” by the news.

Months later, that disappointment apparently hasn’t ebbed.

Asked about the possibility of some players skipping the 2018 NHL All-Star to protest the Olympics decision, here’s what NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told The Hockey New’s Ken Campbell:


Daly’s remarks prompted a quick, scathing response from NHL player agent Allan Walsh:


It’s not difficult to figure out what ramifications Walsh was referring to.

The current collective bargaining agreement between the league and the players expires in September 2022. However, each side has the choice of opting out in September 2019. That would bring the CBA to an end a year later, raising the specter of yet another lengthy labor dispute between the two sides. 

While there’s no word from NHL headquarters indicating they intend to take an early out, the players certainly could. For some time, they’ve been unhappy over escrow clawbacks from their paychecks. The league’s Olympics decision could only harden the players’ resolve to kickstart new CBA talks.

The Winter Olympics could become a bargaining chip in the next round of collective bargaining. Last fall, league commissioner Gary Bettman proposed extending the current CBA by three years in exchange for Olympic participation plus further international league-sanctioned tournaments, such as the World Cup of Hockey. The PA rejected it on the grounds that it was a “take it or leave it” proposal with no room for further negotiation.

Just how badly do the players want to take part in future Olympics? Are they furious enough to make participation in the Games a significant issue in CBA discussions? To coin a phrase from Daly during the last round of negotiations, is it a hill they willing to die on?

Many team owners apparently have no stomach for future Olympic participation. However, the league’s desire for a bigger footprint in China’s growing hockey market could see the board of governors agree to participate in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. Of course, that’s provided the International Olympic Committee can forgive the league’s decision to bypass the Pyeongchang Games.

Should Calgary win the bidding for the 2026 Games, NHL team owners will likely toe the line if Bettman and his crew want to take part in another Winter Olympics staged in a North American market.

Bettman could also use future Olympic participation as a bargaining chip to to squeeze the players for concessions in the next round of CBA talks. He could attempt to minimize a reduction in escrow clawbacks, or perhaps try to reduce the players’ share of hockey-related revenue from its current 50-50 split.

That’s where the players’ desire to represent their countries in the Olympics will be sorely tested. It’s one thing to be hot to trot to represent your country on the world’s biggest sports stage. It’s another when it could affect their share of the NHL revenue pie.


NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 6, 2017

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 6, 2017

Game recaps, Rangers top latest franchise value rankings, updates on Matt Moulson, T.J. Oshie & more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: Brayden Schenn tallied his third career hat trick as the St. Louis Blues held on for a 4-3 victory over the Montreal Canadiens, ending their three-game losing skid and snapping the Habs’ five-game winning streak. Defenseman Shea Weber scored twice for the Canadiens.

After suffering a humiliating 10-1 loss to Montreal in their previous game, the Detroit Red Wings recovered to end a seven-game losing skid with a 5-1 win over the high-flying Winnipeg Jets. Wings forward Gustav Nyquist led the way with two goals and an assist while goalie Jimmy Howard made 25 saves for the win.

Marian Gaborik scored twice, including his 400th career NHL goal, as the Los Angeles Kings defeated the Minnesota Wild 5-2. Kings’ captain Anze Kopitar collected his 500th career assist as he finished the night with a goal and two assists.

Yanni Gourde potted two goals in 1:34 late in the second period to propel the Tampa Bay Lightning to a 6-2 win over the New York Islanders. Nikita Kucherov and Chris Kunitz also collected two points for the Lightning. Isles rookie center Mathew Barzal also netted two points.

Jusse Saros kicked out 43 shots while Kyle Turris and Calle Jarnkrok each had a goal and an assist to give the Nashville Predators a 5-2 victory over the Dallas Stars. Dallas defenseman Jamie Oleksiak also had a goal and an assist.

Filling in for an ill Henrik Lundqvist, Ondrej Pavelec made 41 saves as the New York Rangers edged the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3, snapping the Pens’ four-game winning streak. Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello and Penguins winger Patric Hornqvist each had a goal and an assist.

Corey Schneider made 41 saves as the New Jersey Devils dropped the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-1. Devils forwards Taylor Hall, Nico Hischier, Jesper Bratt and Stefan Noesen each collected two points.

Jacob Markstrom made 30 saves to collect his first NHL shutout as the Vancouver Canucks blanked the Carolina Hurricanes 3-0. Canucks blueliner Derrick Pouliot tallied a goal and assisted on two others.

Erik Haula scored the game-tying goal and Alex Tuch netted the game winner in a shootout as the Vegas Golden Knights rallied to down the Anaheim Ducks 4-3. Haula finished the game with three points.

Third period goals by Evander Kane and Jack Eichel lifted the Buffalo Sabres to a 4-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche to end their four-game losing streak. Robin Lehner made 35 saves for the Sabres. Earlier in the day, the Sabres loaned winger Matt Moulson to the AHL’s Ontario Reign.

THE HOCKEY NEWS: The New York Rangers top Forbes Magazine’s annual NHL franchise valuation ranking. The Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens and Chicago Blackhawks are each estimated to be worth over $1 billion.

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: Capitals winger T.J. Oshie is listed as day-to-day with an upper-body injury and unlikely to suit up tonight against the Chicago Blackhawks.

THE MERCURY NEWS: San Jose Sharks defenseman Brenden Dillon received a one-game suspension for slashing Washington’s Madison Bowey.

TORONTO SUN: Maple Leafs center Tyler Bozak hopes to return to the lineup tonight against the Calgary Flames. He’s been sidelined several days with food poisoning.

NBC SPORTS: On a non-NHL note, Russia’s ban from the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics could disrupt the rosters of the Men’s Hockey tournament if the KHL retaliates to the ban by refusing to allow its players to participate in the Games. Earlier this year, the NHL announced it would not take part in the 2018 Olympics.



NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 12, 2017

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 12, 2017

Game recaps plus updates on Marian Gaborik, Travis Zajac, future Olympic participation & more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: Rick Nash scored twice to give the New York Rangers their sixth straight victory by doubling up the Edmonton Oilers 4-2. Rangers forward Jimmy Vesey wound up with his two front teeth knocked out and driven into his lower lip after being struck in the mouth by the skate of Oilers forward Zach Kassian.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: After struggling through most of October, to the point where head coach Alain Vigneault was reportedly in danger of losing his job, the Rangers have climbed from the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings into a wild-card berth

Mike Hoffman scored twice as the Ottawa Senators edged the Colorado Avalanche 4-3 to sweep their two-game 2017 SAP NHL Global series. The Sens were playing without forward Zack Smith, who suffered a fractured thumb in the first game of the series and will be sidelined for three weeks. 

Kyle Turris scored and set up another while Kevin Fiala and Filip Forsberg scored in a shootout as the Nashville Predators edged the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-4. Phil Kessel also had a goal and an assist for the Penguins. 

Jason Zucker scored his sixth goal in three games and Devan Dubnyk made 32 saves as the Minnesota Wild blanked the Philadelphia Flyers 1-0. 

Brandon Saad’s overtime goal completed a three-goal rally by the Chicago Blackhawks in their 4-3 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes. Alex DeBrincat scored twice for the Hawks. Brock McGinn tallied twice for the Hurricanes. 

Anders Lee scored and set up another as the New York Islanders tallied three first-period goals on route to beating the St. Louis Blues 5-2. 

Aaron Dell turned in a 41-save shutout performance while Logan Couture and Chris Tierney each scored twice to lead the San Jose Sharks to a 5-0 blanking of the Vancouver Canucks. Sharks forward Timo Meier could face supplemental discipline for butt-ending Canucks blueliner Michael Del Zotto in the face. Meier received a five-minute major and a game misconduct. 

Curtis McElhinney made 38 saves while Mitch Marner and James van Riemsdyk each scored a goal and an assist to give the Toronto Maple Leafs a 4-1 victory over the Boston Bruins.

Jack Johnson’s goal in the ninth round of a shootout gave the Columbus Blue Jackets a 2-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings, snapping their four-game losing skid. The Wings were playing without forward Justin Abdelkader, who suffered a fractured cheekbone in a fight with Troy Brouwer during Thursday’s game against the Calgary Flames.

Cory Schneider made 32 saves as the New Jersey Devils ended a four-game losing streak with  a 2-1 win over the Florida Panthers. The Devils also learned center Travis Zajac, who underwent offseason surgery to repair a torn pectoral muscle, could return to action as early as next week. 

Mark Scheifele and Patrik Laine each netted a goal and an assist to give the Winnipeg Jets a 4-1 win over the Arizona Coyotes. 

Max Pacioretty’s overtime goal lifted the Montreal Canadiens to a 2-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres, giving the Habs their fourth win in five games. Earlier in the day, the Canadiens learned backup goalie Al Montoya is sidelined indefinitely with a concussion.

Winger Marian Gaborik has resumed skating with his Los Angeles Kings teammates for the first time in six weeks. He’s still recovering from offseason surgery on his left knee. 

SB NATION: cites an interview given by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman with SVT Sport in Sweden saying he isn’t ruling out sending players to future Olympic Games, but he finds it ““hard to envision a scenario where it makes sense.” While there’s speculation the NHL could take part in the 2022 Beijing Olympics to grow the league’s brand in China, Bettman hints future Olympic participation could be limited to those staged in North America. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There’s some speculation Olympic participation could become an issue in the next round of collective bargaining between the league and NHL Players Association. However, I don’t see that being a significant sticking point in future negotiations. 


NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 22, 2017

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 22, 2017

NHL reportedly seeks second opinion on Joffrey Lupul’s medical condition.

Latest on Joffrey Lupul, injury updates and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines. 

SPORTSNET: The NHL is reportedly going to have Toronto Maple Leafs forward Joffrey Lupul reevaluated by an independent doctor. Lupul, who failed the team’s training-camp physical, raised eyebrows earlier this week on Instagram by insinuating the Leafs were “cheating” and claimed he was ready to play. He’s since deleted that post.  

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lupul later said he wouldn’t seek a second medical opinion. However, the attention his earlier remarks received gave rise to criticism over the Leafs’ handling of players on injured reserve to potentially free up salary-cap space. The league obviously wants to nip this issue in the bud before it gets out of hand. 

THE GLOBE AND MAIL: The NHL’s first preseason game in China saw the Los Angeles Kings defeat the Vancouver Canucks 5-2. However, the game drew just over 10,000 fans, prompting NHL Hall of Famer Phil Esposito to claim the league did a poor job of promotion. “You have got to promote. This game tonight – I looked in the papers… “There wasn’t a goddamn word about it. Not one word.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The fans enjoyed the speed and physical play. Perhaps the league and NHLPA will do a better job of promoting future preseason contests in that country. 

BOSTON HERALD: Bruins defenseman Torey Krug suffered a broken jaw during Tuesday’s preseason game against the Detroit Red Wings. He’ll be reevaluated in three weeks. 

TSN: Montreal Canadiens defenseman Noah Juulsen suffered a fracture foot during a preseason game against the Boston Bruins. He will be sidelined for six weeks. 

NBC SPORTS: The Chicago Blackhawks released forwards Drew Miller and John Mitchell and defenseman Mark Stuart from their professional tryout contracts.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Mitchell was quickly signed by the Columbus Blue Jackets to a PTO contract. 

STLTODAY.COM: The St. Louis Blues hired Hall of Famer Larry Robinson as a senior consultant to hockey operations. 

CALGARY SUN: The Flames released ads yesterday disclosing their proposal to put up $275 million toward a new Victoria Park arena. That prompted a response from several city officials disputing claims the city’s proposals would result in the team paying out 123 percent of the cost. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The dispute is becoming an issue for the upcoming municipal election. It remains to be seen if it’ll have any effect upon the outcome. 

TORONTO SUN: The United States men’s hockey team has ruled out using NHL draft-eligible prospects at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in February. 


NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 14, 2017

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 14, 2017

Marian Gaborik continues to rehab from an offseason medical procedure.

Updates on Marian Gaborik, Clarke MacArthur, Josh Anderson & more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.

LA KINGS INSIDER: Jon Rosen reports Kings head coach John Stevens said winger Marian Gaborik won’t be traveling to China with the club for its series of preseason games later this month against the Vancouver Canucks. Gaborik continues his rehab for an offseason medical procedure on his left knee.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: While it appears Gaborik is making progress there’s no indication if he’ll be ready for the upcoming start of the season next month. 

TSN: Ottawa Senators winger Clarke MacArthur will report to training camp but the club will take a wait-and-see approach regarding his status. MacArthur suffered four concussions in his career and missed most of last season. He’ll first have to be medically cleared by team doctors.

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen offered little update on the status of restricted free agent forward Josh Anderson. The winger might not make it in time for the opening of training camp owing to his immigration papers. Kekalainen said contract talks continue and he’s hopeful of reaching a deal soon.

NEW YORK POST’s Larry Brooks reports former Chicago Blackhawks forward Andrew Desjardins has signed a professional tryout offer with the New York Rangers.

TSN’s Darren Dreger reports former Chicago Blackhawks and Florida Panthers defenseman Dylan Olsen will attend Calgary Flames training camp on a PTO.

THE DENVER POST: The Colorado Avalanche will retire Milan Hejduk’s No. 23 during a pregame ceremony at the Pepsi Center on Jan. 6, 2018. Hejduk spent his entire 14-year NHL career with the Avs, scoring 375 goals and 805 points. He helped them win the Stanley Cup in 2001.

THE PLAYERS’ TRIBUNE: Former NHL forward Vernon Fiddler yesterday announced his retirement. In 877 NHL games with the Nashville Predators, Phoenix Coyotes, Dallas Stars and New Jersey Devils, Fiddler tallied 104 goals and 261 points, as well as 13 points in 51 playoff games.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: One of my favorite Fiddler moments was when he cracked up the Vancouver Canucks bench with his impresssion of then-Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa. 

SPORTSNET: Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi admits he was caught by surprise over the Flames’ announcement Tuesday that they were breaking off talks with the city regarding a new arena deal. He said the city remains at the bargaining table for a new arena despite the Flames pulling out of discussions. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Flames appear to be using this issue to affect the outcome of the upcoming municipal election in hopes of getting a deal that sees them picking up far less of the construction costs. I don’t believe the club will relocate over this. Both sides are posturing but eventually a new arena will be built. 

NBC SPORTS: International Ice Hockey Federation president Rene Faisal dismissed the faint hope of NHL players participating in the 2018 Winter Olympics. While hopeful of NHL participation in the 2022 Game in China, he said that “logistically it is practically impossible for Pyeongchang. That train has left the station.”


Ovechkin and the 2018 Winter Olympics

Ovechkin and the 2018 Winter Olympics

Could Alex Ovechkin retire from the NHL in order to participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics?

The NHL recently announced all players under league contracts cannot participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. That could force Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin to choose between continuing his NHL career or pursuing Olympic gold for Russia.

Ovechin, 31, made no secret of his desire to skate for his home country in the Pyeongchang Games. Somebody going to tell me I don’t go, I don’t care, I just go,” he said in April.

Capitals owner Ted Leonsis signaled his willingness to allow his captain to take part. However, that was prior to the league’s recent decision. 

Ever the optimistic, Ovechkin expressed his belief of a last-minute solution allowing NHL players to go to South Korea. That, however, seems increasingly remote.

Earlier this summer, a rumor was reportedly floated among some Russian NHL players claiming the league and the PA were in super-secret discussions to work out an Olympic deal. The league’s recent announcement should crush that speculation.

The best chance for a resolution was last November, when league commissioner Gary Bettman proposed extending the current collective bargaining agreement by three years to 2025 in exchange for Olympic participation, along with some other international goodies such as further World Cup of Hockey tournaments. The PA, unhappy with high escrow payments under the current CBA, refused.

Since then, there’s no indication of further negotiations between the two sides. Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly repeatedly stated the league won’t take part in the Pyeongchang Olympics.

If Ovechkin, or any other player under NHL contract for 2017-18, wants to represent their country at the Pyeongchang Games, their options are limited.

Players loaned to European teams are apparently exempt from the league ban because they’re no longer under NHL contracts. However, it’s unlikely the league will let that be used as a loophole for team owners to allow their top talent to go to Pyeongchang.

An easier route could be following the example of Ilya Kovalchuk and retire from the NHL. That’s how Kovalchuk got out of his long-term contract with the New Jersey Devils in 2013, allowing him to play in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League.

If Ovechkin chooses that option, it’ll be years before he could return to the NHL as a free agent. Doing so before age 35 requires the approval of the other NHL team owners, some of whom might not be amenable to that notion.

A premature NHL retirement by Ovechkin would carry more weight that Kovalchuk’s departure. He’s “The Great 8”, the long-time face of the Capitals and among the league’s most recognizable stars. It would be a disappointing end to the NHL career of this generation’s most exciting goal scorer and one of the greatest snipers in league history. His departure would certainly hurt the Capitals short-term hopes of winning the Stanley Cup. 

It would also be a risky move for Ovechkin.  Not only would he be prematurely concluding his NHL career, he would also be walking away from a guaranteed contract with an average annual value of $9.5 million running through 2020-21. It could also adversely affect his endorsement deals, especially in North America.

Ovechkin would automatically become the KHL’s biggest star and highest-paid player. However, he’d be joining a less competitive league with a well-documented history of financial difficulties.

With Ovechkin in the lineup, Russia would be the favorite to win gold in men’s hockey at the 2018 Winter Olympics. Assuming Russia wins that tournament against inferior opposition, it would be considered a tainted victory in the eyes of the hockey community.  Even with Ovechkin, it’s possible Russia could once again fall short of Olympic glory. 

It’s also doubtful other NHL stars would follow his lead. While most players are keen to take part in the 2018 Winter Olympics, they’re unlikely to walk away from their lucrative contracts. In the end, multi-million dollar contracts are more valuable than Olympic gold.

All of this, of course, is merely speculation. Since making his comments back in April, Ovechkin’s given no firm indication that he’ll abandon his NHL career to chase Olympic gold for Russia. 

That decision, however, could be coming soon.