SBD/Issue 234/Olympics

Hockey Canada Agrees To Cover Insurance Needs For 46 Players

Hockey Canada Friday announced that it "will cover the insurance needs" for all 46 players attending its on-ice Olympic orientation camp at the Saddledome that runs from today through Thursday, according to Allan Maki of the GLOBE & MAIL. That means "each player will be financially protected" for the '10 Vancouver Games, "as well as for the length of his current NHL contract." The decision to "protect the players and their contracts became necessary last month" when the NHLPA "recommended its members skip the on-ice portion of the Olympic camps for fear they could suffer an injury and jeopardize their careers." NHL teams "do not cover players during the Olympics and the NHLPA wasn't happy with the limited insurance provided by the various" national hockey organizations. Hockey Canada President Bob Nicholson "didn't say how much the insurance coverage is costing Hockey Canada and admitted he was hoping 'someone else would up and partner.'" Proceeds from a "gala dinner and Olympic team's Red versus White scrimmage, set for Thursday, will help defray the costs" (GLOBE & MAIL, 8/22). In Edmonton, Jim Matheson wrote the 46 players have about $875M "left on their NHL contracts, which means Hockey Canada has stepped up big-time." Hockey Canada "won't say how much the insurance premium is, but it probably runs well into seven figures" (EDMONTON JOURNAL, 8/22). In Toronto, Steve MacFarlane noted many of the NHL's "highest-paid players were taking out personal insurance to bridge the gap beyond this season in the event of any long-term injury sustained on the ice" during the four-day camp (TORONTO SUN, 8/23).

RING TOSS: In Boston, Kevin Paul Dupont wrote the NHL "feels it loses marketing momentum and its place in a very crowded professional sports marketplace with the two-week hiatus" for the Olympics. Maple Leafs President & GM Brian Burke, who is also serving as GM of the U.S. Olympic team, said, "There is no other business in the world that shuts their doors for 2 1/2 weeks in the middle of the season. I mean, we have gotten very little benefit from this tournament when it is not in North America. ... I wouldn't be surprised if this is the last Olympics that NHL players participate in." But NHLPA Exec Dir Paul Kelly said, "The players overwhelmingly support continued participation in the Olympics, regardless of issues about time zones, locations, and whether it is in Russia or someplace else." Kelly: "I think the league is going to wait and see what kind of experience we have in Vancouver, what kind of buzz is created around the sport. If you have a tremendous tournament, a great gold medal game, if your (TV) ratings are off the chart, if you create an international buzz about the sport, then I think it changes the dialogue. I think the NHL has to take a fresh look at this question" (BOSTON GLOBE, 8/23).

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