Source: Olympics, Playoff Expansion Could Be Part Of New NHL CBA
A confluence of events could lead to an agreement between the NHL and NHLPA to both "participate in the Olympics and expand the playoffs," though those items have "not come up thus far in CBA talks," according to a source cited by Larry Brooks of the N.Y. POST. Talk of extending or changing the current playoff structure is "expected to be joined by discussions about realignment." The NHL has proposed shifting the Coyotes from the Pacific into the Central Division in '21-22 in order to "accommodate Seattle's entry into the league." Meanwhile, the NHL is "poised to soon open negotiations on its next U.S.-based television and media contracts," with its current agreement with NBC and NBC Sports Network scheduled to expire at the end of '21-22. The NHL will "seek multiple broadcast partners and platforms, including ESPN, next time around, just like every real major league in this country." But regardless of whether expanding the playoffs is a good idea, players and management both "might agree it makes sense if it guarantees higher revenue, greater exposure over broadcast and streaming platforms and an increased cap." Brooks wrote the NHLPA "might be able to create some leverage by agreeing to expand the playoffs in return for an agreement on the Olympics and an international calendar." Brooks: "No Oympics, no expanded playoffs. This would represent an imperfect solution, but it would solve the Olympic issue" (N.Y. POST, 2/16).
COMMUNICATION IS KEY: On Long Island, Andrew Gross wrote though negotiations still are a "long way" from a new CBA, it is "always better for the sides to be talking." But it "won't be an easy negotiation" on Olympic participation. Neither will the "escrow issue, the percentage withheld from players' contracts to ensure a 50-50 split of hockey-related revenue." Gross: "Which is the bigger issue to the NHLPA?" Islanders LW Anders Lee, who is the team's NHLPA player rep, said of which issue is prioritized, "It depends on who you ask. The Olympics is an extremely important thing not only for the guys who get to play in it but for the growth of the game. At the same time, it is a small percentage of the guys in our league who get to represent their country. But we want that opportunity as a league." Lee on the escrow issue said, "It's something immediately that you see personally" (NEWSDAY, 2/15).
BRING IT BACK: In Boston, Kevin Paul Dupont wrote NHL involvement "has its impediments, for sure, but the [Olympics] are better with NHL players involved." Provided the "partnership is right on the marketing side," the worldwide exposure for the league is "invaluable" (BOSTON GLOBE, 2/16). In Tampa, Diana Nearhos writes since the league "wants to grow its influence in China," featuring NHL players at the biggest athletic event on a global scale "seems like a good way to do that." Nearhos: "Take a better deal from the IOC, use two weeks of media coverage to highlight your players, international prospects and sport. Make your employees and your customers happy" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 2/17).