After months and months of waiting, the NHL officially announced that the NHL Players' Association will be permitted to participate in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Despite widespread speculation about this eventual announcement, the NHL and the International Ice Hockey Federation continued negotiations through Wednesday into Thursday. With the NHLPA permitted to participate in the games, the NHL schedule is expected to take a 17-day hiatus beginning on Feb. 9. The NHL is expected to resume operation on Feb. 26 after the completion of the Gold Medal Game.
Negotiations between the NHL, IIHF, International Olympic Committee and other associated groups focused around several key issues, which goes beyond just playing the games. The NHL came into the process concerned about the cost of travel, insurance and media coverage. NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly stated after a meeting in May that it would cost around $3 billion to insure the estimated 160-180 players participating in the games. Someone needs to cover that expenditure, which is seemingly a component to the event that often goes overlooked by the general public.
In addition, the league hoped to establish some kind of content-sharing agreement so that moments captured during the Olympics could be used by the NHL. In the past, the NHL has not had the right to use content from the Olympics. That's why Sidney Crosby's game-winning goal from the 2010 Gold Medal Game isn't shown or promoted on the league's television network or websites.
With the NHL halting operation (and stalling cash flow in the process), the league seemingly battled for some kind of incentive for permitting its players to participate. These issues have apparently been worked out and the league has given its blessing to the players. Of course, given USA Hockey's appointed executive committee and head coach announcement, everyone knew the NHL was going to the Olympics. Now, the decision is official.