Withdrawal from 2018 Olympics May Cause NHL Labor Dispute


Withdrawal from 2018 Olympics May Cause NHL Labor Dispute

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The NHL have announced that their players won’t be appearing at the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. Apparently the dispute revolves primarily around money; Mark Purdy of the Mercury News reported that the NHL wanted the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to pay Olympic expenses and the IOC refused. If the dispute isn’t resolved, this will be the first time the NHL has skipped the event since the 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, when Sweden ended up taking the gold medal.

Without NHL players, national teams would most likely have to scout collegiate athletes and players from leagues like Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) and the American Hockey League (AHL). Russian Ice Hockey Federation board chairman Arkady Rotenberg has already announced that they’ll be actively trying to lure players away from the NHL to participate the 2018 Olympics. According to AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno, the federation has offered to help players with legal issues if they want to play.
Some sports analysts are predicting that the Olympic decision could trigger a labor dispute.  Here’s what the the Associated Press said [via SportsNet.ca]:

“The season was delayed for three months in 2012 before the two sides hammered out the current collective bargaining agreement. It may feel like hockey just went through this, but owners could opt as soon as Sept. 1, 2019…

The league offered an agreement to go to Pyeongchang next year in exchange for extending the CBA until 2025… [but] not wanting to rush into a three-year CBA extension without considering the big picture led the NHL Players’ Association to reject the league’s Olympic offer”

This Wednesday, during a radio appearance on 590 AM The Fan, the NHL Players’ Association executive director Donald Fehr told the league to expect payback during negotiations:

“If the notion is that players will just say, ‘oh well, the CBA didn’t provide for it’ or ‘we wish it were different’ – and we could just go on with life as usual or as if this hadn’t happened, I think that’s a very, very, very unlikely possibility”

And, while the 2018 Winter Olympics may be a focus in collective bargaining agreement (CBA) negotiations, there are still several other subjects that also need to be resolved. According to SportsNet.ca:

“The length of contracts and long-term injured reserve are expected to be discussed, and players also are unhappy that 15.5 per cent of their pay is withheld in escrow to ensure a 50/50 split of hockey revenue with owners; some have privately grumbled about not getting paid what their contracts say. Players’ agent Todd Diamond believes the league has a “revenue problem” because NHL business is growing at a slower pace compared with other major sports.”