NHL to Participate at 2022 Winter Olympics

According to an article accessed from the NHL app by Nicholas J. Cotsonika, the NHL will be participating in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

The NHL and the NHL Player’s Association came to an agreement with the International Ice Hockey Federation today. This will result in “a break in the 2021-22 NHL regular-season schedule to accommodate the participation of NHL players in the 2022” Olympics.

The break will begin on February 3 and end on February 22, encompassing the Olympics and the All-Star Game (the weekend of the third) at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The end of the break will see the Olympic gold medal game on February 20.

According to Cotsonika, “[i]t will be the first Olympics for NHL players since 2014 in Sochi and the first best-on-best international tournament since the World Cup of Hockey 2016 in Toronto.”

The article said that the agreement between the NHL, NHLPA and IIHF “allows for the possibility of a later decision to withdraw in the event evolving COIVD-19 conditions are deemed by the NHL and NHLPA to render participation by NHL players to be impractical or unsafe.”

Cotsonika quoted NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly as saying: “We understand how passionately NHL players feel about representing and competing for their countries. We are very pleased that we were able to conclude arrangements that will allow then to resume best-on-best competition on the Olympic stage.”

NHLPA general counsel Don Zavelo said that “[r]epresenting their country in the Olympics is important to the players, even in these uncertain times. The players look forward to pulling on their nation’s hockey sweater at the upcoming 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing as they comepete for the gold medal.”

IIHF president Rene Fasel added: “I know I can speak for hockey fans around the world when I say that we absolutely welcome the decision to bring back best-on-best ice hockey to the Olympics. We had many constructive discussions, and a lot of hard work was put into making this happen within the time we set for ourselves, and I want to thank all parties involved for their support and commitment.”

Cotsonika said that NHL players were participants in the Olympics five times between 1998 and 2014. That streak ended at PyeongChang 2018 as the NHL felt at that time “the Olympics [disrupted] the NHL season, particularly when not held in North America.”

Last year, Cotsonika continued, when the NHL and NHLPA extended their collective bargaining agreement through the 2025-26 season, the sides committed to going to the Olympics if an agreement could be banged out with the IIHF.

Of the Olympics with NHL participation, Cotsonika mentioned that the Czech Republic won gold  in 1998 (Nagano), Canada has won in 2002 (Salt Lake City) and 2010 (Vancouver) and Sweden won in 2006 (Torino).

The Olympic tournament, as reported by Cotsonika, will include 12 countries. They will be seeded into three groups and include the top eight IIHF World Ranking teams: Canada, the Russian Olympic Committee, Finland, Sweden, the Czech Republic, the United States, Germany and Switzerland. They will be joined by the teams that recently qualified through IIHF qualifying tournaments: Slovakia, Latvia and Denmark.

In other news, the Devils announced, through their PR team, that the team will participate in the 2021 Prospects Challenge.

The Prospects Challenge will teake place from September 17 to 19 at LECOM Harborcenter in Buffalo.

The participating teams will be the Sabres, the Devils and the Boston Bruins. Tickets are available at Sabres.com/prospects and are $10. There will be COVID guidelines to follow should you make the trip up. If you are unvaccinated, you will need to wear a mask at all times at the Harborcenter. The press release does not hat masks are optional if you are vaccinated.

The Devils prospects will take on Buffalo on Friday, September 17 at 7 PM and Boston on Sunday, September 19 at 1 PM.

NHL Approves Ads on Jerseys for 2022-23

It’s been a while since I last posted but such is life for a hockey blog in August.

Some news making the rounds today that should be kind of controversial as, according to Eben Novy-Williams and Scott Soshnick of Sportico.com, the NHL owners have approved ads on jerseys beginning in 2022-23.

They will become the second North American “Big Four” professional sports league to put ads on players’ jerseys, following the lead of the National Basketball Association – who began putting ads on jerseys in 2017-18. Major League Baseball has ads on umpire jerseys, but nothing more.

The ad space was approved unanimously by the NHL Board of Governors and the Sportico authors reviewed the memo sent to the NHL’s member clubs.

According to the article, the “ads must fit a rectangle 3 inches by 3.5 inches, making them slightly bigger than the patches that the NBA added to its jerseys.”

The NHL had been priming fans for the jersey ads beginning last season when teams were permitted to sell ad space on player helmets. The stickers on the helmets (Prudential in the case of the Devils) “opened new inventory for clubs to add partners {or accommodate existing ones} amid the revenue crunch of the pandemic. Commissioner Gary Bettman said teams retained more than $100 million through the program, which has since been extended.”

Teams have also been able to sell ad space on their practice jerseys in the NHL.

The authors of the article note that while jersey ads are common around the world in European hockey and international soccer, for instance, it has been slower to be adopted in the United States and Canada (although the Canadian Football League has had ads from time to time on team jerseys). The WNBA and Major League Soccer have been at the forefront of selling ads on their clubs’ uniforms.

The article on Sportico mentioned that the NBA’s jersey ad “program was estimated to boost revenues by $150 million annually. The individual team deals generally ranged from low seven figures to upwards of $20 million.”

There are inevitably going to be those who do not like this. I understand that, as I was arguing vehemently against this for many years. The thing is, there was nothing that could be done following the NBA opening Pandora’s Box and the helmet ads taking us further down the slippery slope.

Now I see it as not only inevitable, but also in a more positive light. With more money for the league and teams, the salary cap will continue to rise steadily and teams (the Devils included) will have more financial stability (and money to spend on free agents, etc.). I do not think this is going to end up as a European-style “skating billboard” situation. The owners need to balance tradition and North American sensibilities and this new-found way to make money.

In time, however, we will get used to it and it will not matter. I do not closely follow the NBA, but I wonder how many fans have just gotten acclimated to seeing the ads on their team’s jerseys?

Time will tell how this plays out, but it should not be too much of a hinderance initially.