TSN Hockey Insiders Bob McKenzie, Darren Dreger and Pierre LeBrun gathered for the latest installment of Insider Trading and the topic discussed was the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Is the NHL going to the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia?
McKenzie - It's highly likely, just short of a foregone conclusion that the National Hockey League will be shutting down 16 days in the middle of next season to allow its players to participate in the Olympics. It's not a foregone conclusion because the NHL and the NHLPA are looking for a better deal from the International Ice Hockey Federation and the International Olympic Committee in terms of player participation for the Olympics. The better deal doesn't mean a better monitory deal. It means better access to the players - the use of images, the use of video, as well as accommodation and tickets. The NHL and the NHLPA are basically being treated like it was a major sponsor for the Olympics, getting no more or no less than a lot of sponsors would get. There's going to be a meeting next week between the IOC, the IIHF, the NHL and the NHLPA and its a united front for the most part - NHL and NHLPA - trying to get this better deal.
If they commit to the Olympics, is it long term or just to Russia?
LeBrun - Just to Sochi at this point. That would be the NHL's preference. I'm sure the IOC and the IIHF would say 'what about South Korea?' but they're only getting Sochi at this point because the NHL wants to see how that goes before it commits further. And even after there's an agreement between the four parties, the NHL's Board of Governors also have to approve an Olympic participation and that could be as late as June. After Sochi is done, and we all believe it's going to get done, the bigger conversation to me is the international calendar; the return of the World Cup of Hockey. The message to the IIHF from the NHL is asking why we're having a World Hockey Championship in an Olympic year. That is over-taxing the NHL players. A lot of conversations are yet to be had but look for the World Cup of Hockey to return in 2016.
Will Mike Babcock be back behind Team Canada's bench?
Dreger - It makes sense that Mike Babcock would have the advantage but it's not necessarily a slam dunk. Of course Babcock will get a good look from Hockey Canada and that management group and he's earned that right based on the success in Vancouver. But Ken Hitchcock of the St. Louis Blues is a coach that deserves a lot of credit because he continues to adapt, reinvent his style, he's a survivor, and he too is a winner. He also is a big fan of Doug Armstrong, who's on the management team. There will be options, including Boston's Claude Julien and potentially Buffalo's Lindy Ruff, but the frontrunners are Babcock and Hitchcock. And also of note is that federations are pushing for a roster expansion, thinking 23 might not be enough with worry of injury and all the detail work that goes into it. So the federations, including Canada, would prefer a 25-man roster for logistical reasons.
What about the American's and Brian Burke, will he be back?
McKenzie - USA Hockey will not make any final decisions until the NHL formally commits. Brian Burke was the general manager the last time and David Poile was the assistant and they were very successful. Could USA Hockey come back with the exact same tandem? Absolutely, but Burke is no longer a general manager in the NHL and USA Hockey is going to have an internal discussion to see whether or not that's a problem.