THE GAMES MUST GO ON: 2014 SOCHI WINTER OLYMPIC GAMES AND THE NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE
written for and first published by LawInSport – http://lawinsport.com/articles/regulation-a-governance/item/the-games-must-go-on-2014-sochi-winter-olympic-games-and-the-national-hockey-league
The Sochi Winter Olympic Games
The Olympic Winter Games have become immensely popular around the world and continue to grow at an impressive rate as demonstrated by the 1.822 billion viewers who tuned into the 2010 Games in Vancouver, Canada.1
Men’s ice hockey has developed into a marquee event for the Games, the popularity of which can be attributed, in large part, to the participation of National Hockey League (NHL) players.2Despite the popularity of the men’s ice hockey tournament, the NHL and the National Hockey League Players Association (NHLPA) were hesitant to allow their players to participate in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games. The NHL and NHLPA’s hesitation to go to the Games was largely due to the rising cost of player insurance, and restrictions on the NHLs ability to commercialize their participation in the tournament.3
In order for the NHL to participate in the Winter Olympic Games, the NHL had to come to terms not only with the NHLPA, but also with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF). Throughout the early months of 2013, the NHL and NHLPA met with the IOC and the IIHF. They discussed the parameters of an agreement that would allow NHL players to participate in the Sochi Games.
These discussions occurred on the heels of a contentious Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) negotiation between the NHL and the NHLPA.4 Prior CBA’s had stipulated the League’s intent to participate in the Winter Olympic Games. For example, the 2005 CBA indicated that the NHL and the NHLPA were committed to participating in the 2006 and 2010 Winter Olympic Games.5 Article 24.8 of the 2005 CBA provided “[t]he NHL and the NHLPA commit to participate in the 2006 and 2010 Winter Olympics, subject to negotiation of mutually acceptable terms with the IIHF.”6
However, in the current CBA, the NHL and NHLPA did not make a statement of commitment to participate in future Winter Olympic Games. Instead, the NHL and NHLPA agreed to discuss terms with IIHF and the IOC with regards to the NHLs participation in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games and other international competitions.7