"Fasel stopped short of dropping to his knees and pleading with Bettman to make sure NHL players are in Sochi, Russia, in 2014, but he didn't stop short by a lot. He suggested the NHL can lose its All-Star break to create more time to send players to Sochi and said continuing to send players would enhance the game's growth.It sounds to me like Gary Bettman has Fasel right where he wants him.
"The effort to shut down for two weeks and play here is worth it," Fasel told reporters at a news conference while Bettman, sitting to his right, grew increasingly red-faced. "For our game, our fans, Gary, we need you."
Bettman's stance that the NHL may not return to future Olympics is all about positioning. He knows the players want to return, so he can use this as a bargaining chip to get different concessions in the next round of collective bargaining.
But Bettman also wants a piece of the Olympic financial pie, and I don't blame him. The NHL provides the best players. NHL participation creates dream tournaments, at least in theory. The NHL knows the IOC can count on higher interest and therefore higher revenues with NHL participation. The NHL gets zero direct benefit from interrupting it's business, while the IOC cashes in.
The problem is that while the IIHF seems desperate to see the NHL return, they really are an insignificant player here. This is between the NHL and IOC. Bettman may hope that Fasal can convince his friends at the IOC to see it his way, but really Bettman's battle is going to be with the IOC itself.
It's probably a long shot that the IOC will cave to the NHL. As far a I understand it neither the NBA (basketball) or FIFA (soccer) get any piece of the pie either. Perhaps Bettman will be looking to make some friends there.
NHL Olympics are a boon to international hockey in general. They are directly beneficial for the IOC. They are indirectly beneficial to the NHL, although to what degree is murky. As for Fasel and the IIHF, one thing is clear: If the NHL does not return to the Olympics, it is the IIHF who loses the most.