BUFFALO, N.Y. — The NHL Players’ Association is expected to reject the NHL’s verbal proposal to extend the current collective bargaining agreement in exchange for Olympic participation in 2018.
The players’ association is expected to notify the league of its decision before next week’s board of governors meeting in Florida. An NHLPA spokesperson said Thursday that the group has not officially notified the league.
The NHLPA discussed the league’s Olympic proposal, but it was met with a strong ‘no’ by the players, who have said they want to play in the 2018 Olympic Games in Pyeongchang.
“Any time you go through [CBA] negotiations as we went through [in 2013], these big decisions take some time and it was early on when [the league] said, ‘Hey, we’ll extend it three years’ and we didn’t know exactly what was going on, like are we going to negotiate, or is it take-it-or-leave it?” New York Rangers team representative Derek Stepan said. “In the short meetings we had with the PA it was pretty clear everyone was still a little uncomfortable with continuing the CBA for three more years. Obviously, a big topic was escrow and trying to find a way to negotiate that, so it was a combination of things that made the decision pretty easy to say we’re not quite set on just doing three more years.”
Even if the players had agreed, which is unlikely, the concept would still have to be endorsed by the NHL board of governors, and there would be no guarantee they would agree to extending the CBA.
NHL players’ participation in the Olympics is currently hung up over the players’ and owners’ insistence that the International Olympic Committee and International Ice Hockey Federation pay expenses such as transportation, insurance and accommodations for the Games as they have in the past. There have been questions about how the IOC and IIHF will pay those hefty expenses this time around.
Players viewed the league’s proposal to extend the CBA as a way to keep owners in control. Players currently pay 15 percent-plus to escrow and don’t recoup a large chunk of that in the current revenue sharing model.
“It’s pretty obvious the owners are pretty happy with the current deal,” said Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist.
As far as the Olympics, the NHL has until Jan. 15 to come to a decision, Christophe Dubi, the IOC’s executive director of the Olympic Games, told the Associated Press.
“Everyone wants to play at that level and it’s just about doing it the right way, in a way that benefits everyone,” said Buffalo Sabres rep Marcus Foligno. “Right now it’s not coming to terms but we know if we keep working out some little things, some small details, we’ll go to the Olympics.”
The sides will continue to discuss the NHL players’ Olympic participation, but in no way did the PA want to extend the current CBA past the Sept. 15, 2022, expiration. The current CBA was ratified by the NHLPA on Jan. 12, 2013, after a four-month lockout.
“There were some things in the CBA that we wanted to fix. We came back a little bit too soon with just wanting to play and there are some things in the CBA that looking back at it we wish we would’ve changed, so when [extending the CBA] was brought up, when the CBA is up there are some things we want to change, so that’s why we don’t want to extend it right now,” Foligno said. “It’s their way of trying to extend something by dangling something in our face, and we understand that. Right now it’s about talking with our group and making sure it’s reasonable for everyone.”
Lundqvist won an Olympic gold medal with Team Sweden in 2006 and a silver medal in 2014.
“The Olympics is still a big platform for us to grow the game and expose the game to new fans,” he said. “Even though it’s in Asia, the time difference and all that, it’s a big market for the league, for hockey in general to grow. I hope to see NHL players in the Olympics.”