Sunday, August 07, 2005

No Olympics for NHL Players?

Players from the National Hockey League might not go to the Olympics, as the Russians are staying stubborn and not changing their stance on the NHL-IIHF transfer agreement.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has met with the leadership of Russia’s Professional Hockey League and clubs of the upper league but he was unable to convince them to ratify the agreement.

If the Russian GM's (and the Czechs) really don't ratify the agreement, that means NHL teams can take anyone under contract over there and sign them, without any compensation to their Russian club. It works both ways, but players are a lot less likely to bolt from the NHL than they are from the Russian leagues. This is a grave mistake on the part of the Russians.

Now why does this affect the Olympics? The compensation of players is only one part of the deal. Another part is allowing NHL players to play in IIHF sanctioned tournaments, such as the Olympics.

There is an article in the Dallas Morning News (stupid subscription required, but you might be able to get one read without it) in which Billy Daly says there could still be an agreement sometime this week. He also said that he "doesn't think" there will be a problem with the Olympics in the long term.

Eventually, this should get straightened out. The Russians want more money and don't want to back down just because Bettman came over there. But in the end, it is in their interest to get this deal done. I wonder what the NHL would do if they could not work something out; there is an awfully big gap in the middle of the schedule for the games in Italy.