- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 21, 2010

CALGARY, Alberta | If NHL players are going to participate in the 2014 Winter Olympics, the union and league will need to have extensive discussions, commissioner Gary Bettman said.

“Every time I discuss the pluses and minuses and I articulate what the minuses are people say, ‘Oh, well they’ve made up their mind — they’re not going,’” Bettman said. “It’s difficult for any business, any league, to shut down for two weeks with the attendant loss of attention and everything that flows from it and there are competitive issues.”

The NHL has taken an Olympic break every four years, starting with the 1998 Nagano Games.

“Our teams send varying amounts of players to the Olympics, and so a team that sends eight or nine players may come back a little more tired and banged up than an NHL team that sends none or one or two,” Bettman said.

He said a decision for the Sochi Games doesn’t have to be made right away, and he expects debate with the players.

“I know the players are passionate about representing their countries — we have a long history as a sport in international competition and that’s something that’s important to the players. But we have to decide, on balance, ‘is it worth it?” he asked.

In addition to the problems of shutting down the league for two weeks, Bettman expressed concerns about the NHL getting enough publicity during the event.

“In some places, the benefits are greater for the Olympic participation than others. When you’re in Vancouver or Salt Lake City and you’re in North American time zones and you’re getting that type of coverage, then you are getting coverage that may be commensurate with shutting down,” Bettman said.

“When you’re halfway around the world, maybe the coverage isn’t as great. The time zone in Sochi, Russia for example is 10 hours ahead of the mountain time zone,” said Bettman, noting the games will be played when it is in the middle of the night in North America.

“Is it worth it? I don’t have an answer to it yet.”

Also, Bettman said there is little to report on efforts to sell the Phoenix Coyotes. The NHL took over ownership of the club when it went into bankruptcy and is still looking for a new owner.

“There isn’t a hard and fast deadline but it’s something we anticipate accomplishing before the end of the season,” said Bettman, who admitted there isn’t a contingency plan in place if a local buyer can’t be found.

Earlier, he told a business audience at the Calgary Chamber of Commerce that an option does not include relocating the team to Canada.

“Despite what I might have had to do last summer — we’re not in the business of owning franchises,” Bettman said. “Will there be more teams in Canada? The answer is ‘I hope so at some point.’”

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