NHL players unlikely to pay to play at Winter Games

(Reuters) - National Hockey League (NHL) players would love to take part in the 2018 Winter Olympics but are unlikely to shoulder the burden of paying their own travel costs, NHL players’ association executive Mathieu Schneider has said.

Rogers Communications Inc President and CEO Guy Laurence walks by a National Hockey League (NHL) logo at the company's annual general meeting for shareholders in Toronto April 22, 2014. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

The participation of the NHL players in Pyeongchang has been thrown into doubt after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said it would no longer cover insurance and travel costs, which have been widely estimated at around $10 million.

“I understand from the IOC’s perspective that they don’t want to pay players to come,” Schneider was quoted as saying by Yonhap News.

“But at the same time, players don’t necessarily want to pay to come to the Olympics as well.

“It’s certainly not something that can’t be overcome. We’re optimistic that it will all work out in the end. Players love playing in the Olympics. That’s why we’ve participated in the last five Olympics.”

Discussions over player participation hit a another roadblock last month after NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the chances of the league shutting down to allow players to compete at the Olympics in the middle of the season were “dim”.

Schneider, a former Stanley Cup champion, admitted that NHL players who decide to take part in the Winter Games will likely need to push their fitness levels to its limits.

“It’s the level of competition that is one step above what you see in the NHL on a night-to-night basis, because it’s the top players from around the world,” he added.

“After the Olympic Games are over, to go back and start again at a very high level of competition at the most important time of the season going into the playoffs, it’s very challenging from the point of view.”

A decision on player participation is expected before the end of this year.

Reporting by Shravanth Vijayakumar in Bengaluru, editing by Nick Mulvenney