NHL shouldn't expect special treatment in Olympic talks, IOC says

A representative for the International Olympic Committee says the National Hockey League and its team owners shouldn't expect special treatment in negotiations for their participation in the upcoming Winter Games in South Korea.

"The IOC knows that the NHL understands that the Olympic movement cannot treat the owners of a commercial franchise of a national league better than an international sports federation or other professional leagues with regard to the Olympic Games," IOC spokesperson Mark Adams told Reuters in a story published Wednesday.

The NHL and the IOC have been unable to reach an agreement that would allow the world's top hockey players to compete at the 2018 Olympics.

NHL players have participated in every Winter Olympics dating back to 1998.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, who has taken a hard line in negotiations with the IOC while maintaining a pessimistic tone in his public statements, said last week that "there are no negotiations ongoing" with the IOC and "as things stand now people should assume we are not going."

In exchange for putting its season on hold for 2½ weeks, the NHL wants its players' transportation and insurance costs covered, and is also reportedly seeking additional marketing benefits.

The IOC footed the bill for players' transportation and insurance for the last five Games, but said it would not do so in 2018. However, the International Ice Hockey Federation — the world governing body for the sport — said back in November it would cover those costs, which have been estimated at $20 million US.

"The IOC has been informed the talks between the [IIHF] and the NHL are continuing," Adams told Reuters.

Beyond having those transportation and insurance costs covered, Reuters reported last week that the NHL is also seeking something akin to the IOC's "Top Sponsor" status, which would allow the league to market the Olympics on its own platforms.

"Obviously, this time the owners of the NHL clubs are putting more commercial conditions to the IOC and the Olympic movement," Adams said.

Some players, including Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin of Russia, have claimed they will compete in the 2018 Olympics regardless of the NHL's decision. Reuters reported that Japanese tire maker Bridgestone, which is both an IOC Top Sponsor and a major NHL advertiser, is also pushing for a deal.

"We know that the players definitely want to play and the fans want to watch the best players in the Olympic Winter Games," Adams said.

"These Games give the greatest worldwide exposure to the sport of ice hockey. The offer for the two Olympic Winter Games, 2018 and 2022, remains on the table and we are still hopeful there will be an agreement in the interests of all."