NHL schedule will include break but no guarantee of Olympics

Sports

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman takes part in an interview next to a Seattle Kraken NHL hockey goalie helmet Wednesday, July 21, 2021, during the Kraken’s expansion draft event in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

SEATTLE (AP) — Commissioner Gary Bettman said Wednesday the NHL schedule will include a break for the 2022 Winter Olympics even though there is no commitment the league’s players will go to Beijing in February.

“I don’t believe there will be an update on the Olympics by the time we release the schedule,” Bettman said ahead of the Seattle Kraken expansion draft. “We’ll do what we need to do under the circumstances to release the schedule, and then if things change we’ll do what needs to be done.”

Last month during the Stanley Cup Final, Bettman cast doubt on whether the league would participate, citing safety and logistical concerns along with a tightening time frame.

His tone hasn’t changed much in the weeks since and said the schedule release Thursday will have built-in mechanisms to adjust should players not take part.

Last month, Bettman said one of the only reasons the NHL is still in discussions with Olympic officials is because the league made a commitment to make every effort to participate in the 2022 Games as part of extending the collective bargaining agreement with players last summer.

“We agreed (during) the shutdown, if that’s what the players wanted (we would do it) assuming it could be done under the appropriate terms and conditions,” Bettman said. “And there’s still some open issues that I know the Players’ Association is working on.”

The NHL participated in five consecutive Olympics beginning in 1998 before skipping the 2018 Games in South Korea.

Bettman declined to explain how the schedule will be adjusted should the Olympic break not be needed.

“I’m not going to jump the release. Let’s put it this way: It will be self-explanatory,” he said.

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