Commissioner says money key to NHL Olympic participation

Washington (AFP) - NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said reduced funding from the International Olympic Committee could spell the end of league participation in the Olympic Games.

Speaking before game one of the Stanley Cup finals in Pittsburgh between the Penguins and the San Jose Sharks, Bettman dropped a strong hint that the NHL won't make its players available for the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, unless the IOC and International Ice Hockey Federation continue to pay for some league expenses.

The IOC has helped cover expenses such as insurance for players and travel costs since NHL players began taking part in Nagano in 1998.

"It's many, many millions of dollars," Bettman said, adding that the league's decision on whether to suspend play during the games and make players available to their national teams would depend on whether IOC president Thomas Bach and international ice hockey federation president Rene Fasel can "resolve the expense issue."

"I'm pretty sure our teams are not paying for the privilege of interrupting our season," Bettman said.

Bettman also addressed the issue of league expansion, saying owners will discuss the possibility of adding one or two teams at the June 22 board of governors meeting.

At that time, it could be decided to shelve the idea, defer a decision or go ahead with adding one or two teams.

Bettman said the executive committee will make a recommendation to the board of governors before the meeting.