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NHL Olympic announcement could come before start of playoffs

2017 NHL All-Star - Media Day

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 28: National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman speaks with the media during 2017 NHL All-Star Media Day as part of the 2017 NHL All-Star Weekend at the JW Marriott on January 28, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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We could finally be close to a decision on whether or not the NHL will send its players to the 2018 Winter Olympics.

On Saturday night, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman mentioned on Hockey Night in Canada’s headlines segment that the league could announce its decision before the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs next week because, in his words, “the National Hockey League does not want this overshadowing the playoffs.”

Rene Fasel, the president of the IIHF, said last week that he needs the NHL’s decision before the end of April.

At this point everything coming from the league seems to indicate that the NHL players will not be attending. Last week NHL commissioner Gary Bettman insisted that the NHL is not “anti-Olympics” but that the league’s owners are against disrupting the season.

“The league isn’t anti-Olympics,” said Bettman, via the Chicago Tribune. “The problem is, the clubs are anti-disruption to the season. To disappear for almost three weeks in February when there is no football and baseball and it’s only basketball and … there’s no programming for the NHL Network, for (and) all of our social media platforms. … If somebody proposes something dramatic and radically different that gets the attention of the clubs where they say, ‘You know what? We don’t like going but on balance it’s worth it because of this,’ we’ll have to look at it again. But overwhelmingly the sentiment of the clubs is it’s too disruptive.”

NHL players have participated in the Olympics since 1998, and while there has always seemed to be a “will they or won’t they” discussion in the years leading up to them, this seems to be the closest the league has come to pulling the plug on Olympic participation.

While the owners and the league seem opposed, the players still seem determined to want to play. They have also said they are not willing to negotiate with the league when it comes to the collective bargaining agreement to get there. It was reported in November that the league had offered the players the chance to play in the Olympics in return for the players accepting an extension of the current CBA.