US Hockey Hall of Fame defenseman and current NHLPA executive Mathieu Schneider joined Nick Kypreos on Line Movement’s Real Kyper at Noon show on Tuesday, further elaborating on the new Collective Bargaining Agreement agreed to by the NHL and the NHL’s Players’ Association earlier this month.
Olympic marketing changes
One of the biggest takeaway from the CBA extension was the inclusion of NHLers at the upcoming 2022 Olympic Winter Games in China. One of the biggest hurdles was being able to legally market their players involved with the tournament, and as Schneider confirmed to Kyper, the NHL will be allowed to use player images and likeness from the Olympics in marketing material.
The move allows NHL teams to benefit financially while their contracted players are playing internationally. In the past, NHL teams were unhappy having to shut the league down for three weeks to allow select players to participate, all while the teams sit dormant unable to benefit financially. The stipulation with the International Olympic Committee has been rectified with the new CBA, which allows NHLers to participate in the next two Olympics.
“We were always skeptical about how the league and some of the owners viewed the Olympics – that it wasn’t necessarily valuable to them,” Schnieder said. “I would say that the one big change that will be coming with the Olympics is the IOC came to us and said that they’d be willing to allow the league and us as the PA to market the fact that our players are going to be over there.”
“If you really look now at the stars in our league, they’ve all grown up watching our best players play in the Olympics every year,” Schnieder added. “That’s something that they aspire to do. I think it’s just going to be tremendous for hockey fans throughout the world to be able to see our guys back to the Olympics again.
“The economics are in place. There are a lot of barriers that were removed initially and we’ll have an ongoing discussion. It’s all positive.”
Schneider added that he felt opportunities were missed in not bringing back the World Cup of Hockey after its revival in 2016, but says there are plans to revive it for 2024. The World Cup of Hockey’s legacy was panned due to the threat of an eventual demise of NHLers at the Olympics and the inclusion of two all-star teams in place of actual countries in an international event. The NHL’s commitment to the 2022 Olympics could help boost the profile of the World Cup, which can now be used as an early tryout event for the 2026 Olympic tournament – with the NHL holding full control.
Focusing on the real issues
The CBA announcement came during a logistically challenging negotiation period due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Schneider said health authorities in Canada were impressed with the NHL’s testing of players every day while moving towards the bubble system that will prevent players from coming in and out during the playoff tournament. Schneider indicated that there haven’t been discussions about disqualifying a team from the playoff tournament due to a team missing quite a few players due to positive tests. Schneider did say the plan is to have doctors available throughout the playoff process and that the league and NHLPA will react to the scenario in real-time. He added that the respective player hotels will be reserved for the league only with no members of the general public allowed in and that players that previously tested positive but have recovered and are symptom-free can return to play when suitable.
“As soon as symptoms might pop up in a player, he’ll be isolated. That’s the way we’ll be able to contain it, but the general public is not at risk,” Schneider pointed out. “A lot of our guys have been asymptomatic that have tested positive,” Schneider said. “They immediately get a test the next day to confirm whether it’s positive or negative. We have had several false positives over the course of Phase 2 and Phase 3.”
Looking beyond to 2020-21, the NHLPA has already begun looking at the next season and what the season could look like with or without fans. As to the official timeline, nothing is certain, and Schneider admitted that the main goal is finishing the current campaign.
“A lot will be dependent upon a vaccine. But when we’re going through all the economics over the next two or three years, our worst-case scenario has us playing an 82 game schedule in front of no fans.
“Then there’s the best-case scenario where revenues bounce back to where they might have been this year had we finished the entire season (Schneider said $4.8 billion was the projected revenue this season), and we have a vaccine in December, and January we get people back in the buildings quickly.”
“All of our discussions up until the pandemic were very healthy,” Schneider said. “Probably different than any other time. There were very honest and open discussions for a two year period.”