The National Hockey League appears to have won a major victory, and say what you will about National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman but this will likely go down as another one of the many achievements he has earned during his time at the helm of the league.
According to comments made by Sportsnet National Hockey League insider Elliotte Friedman on Saturday night, it sounds like Rene Fasel and the International Olympic Committee have capitulated and given in to the demands the NHL had made clear would have to be met before they once again allowed their players to participate in the Winter Olympic Games. Friedman outlined how the IOC caved in on just about every point that Gary Bettman and the NHL had put forward, although it sounds like we may still have one more hurdle to overcome before Olympic participation is back on the table.
"A big step this week towards potential Olympic participation," began Friedman. "The IOC and the IIHF met with the league and the NHLPA on Tuesday and it made it clear to both parties that it is willing to address the concessions and some of the league's biggest concerns towards the NHL players going to play in Beijing. That includes insurance, that includes travel costs, that also includes marketing rights, the ability to use the Olympic video and the players themselves on the league's and the player's own platforms. It is a big development and a big policy change that did catch some people by surprise."
The reason so many will have been caught off guard by today's news is the fact that the IOC has repeatedly played hard ball with the NHL, a negotiating tactic that appears to have failed horribly for them. Rene Fasel has time after time imposed arbitrary deadlines for the NHL to declare whether or not it will participate on the games, only to bend and set a new deadline each time it became clear that Bettman and the league would simply not be bullied into accepting a bad deal. The optics now make it appear as though Fasel has come crawling back to the negotiating table and has given up just about everything that Bettman and the NHL wanted as part of this new deal.
I did mention earlier that there is one more hurdle here, although this appears to solve all of the issues for the league as far as Olympic participation is concerned, this one is not over. According to Friedman the league wants a new collective bargaining agreement in place that would include language regarding Olympic participation, but the current CBA is set to expire after the next Winter Olympic Games. This is obviously another negotiating tactic on the part of Gary Bettman, but we will have to wait and see how this one plays out.