The NHL remains reluctant to reverse course and compete in the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing, despite new assurances --which have the backing of the league's players -- from Olympic officials to resolve some major stumbling blocks.
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly significantly tamped hopes of the world's best players returning to the Olympics for the first time since 2014 by referring to recent talks as "very preliminary" and leaving open many unanswered questions.
"We aren't there yet. In fact, we aren't even close to being there," Daly wrote in an email to The Associated Press on Monday. "At this point in time, we continue to believe that the negatives outweigh the positives."
At the same time, Daly raised another concern by suggesting the matter of Olympic participation might be easier to resolve if it were tied to ongoing negotiations to extend the league's collective bargaining agreement. The league and the players are scheduled to spend the next two days involved in CBA talks in Toronto.
NHLPA executive director Don Fehr responded by telling The AP that he hopes the NHL isn't moving the goal posts on the union in regard to the issue of Olympic participation, with the Beijing Games taking place before the current CBA expires.
"I can't figure out why anybody would not want to go and take advantage of this opportunity because it doesn't come around every day," Fehr told The AP by phone.
"We think and have always thought that a matter like this should be addressed on its own merits, and it seems to us that the merits on this one are crystal clear, pellucidly clear."
The setback in discussions comes a week after NHL and NHLPA officials attended a meeting in New York at which the International Ice Hockey Federation provided mostly verbal -- and a few written -- assurances addressing many of the concerns that prompted the league to decline to participate in the Winter Games in South Korea. The NHL participated in the previous five Olympics.