The TSN Hockey Insiders Pierre LeBrun, Chris Johnston and Darren Dreger joined host Gino Reda to discuss why the NHL and NHLPA haven't made an official announcement yet in regards to Olympic participation, if a one-year delay of the Beijing Games is a potential option, how the NHL plans to make up all the postponed games, and much more.

Gino Reda: The two sides have been in discussions for a few weeks now, have they finally come to a decision?

Pierre LeBrun: It’s not official yet, but sources confirm that the NHL and NHLPA have agreed that they’re not sending players to the Olympics in Beijing as we had suspected now for a few days. The reason that it hasn’t been made official yet, we expect that announcement on Wednesday, is that the NHLPA has had to do its own internal process that they’ve been on a number of player calls, and also there’s a matter of  the league and the Players’ Association talking to the International Olympic Committee about making this official. When it is made official, this is about the NHL pointing to the Olympic agreement with the players and saying that this COVID situation now, the latest wave, has materially impacted this season, obviously, and that’s just not something the NHLPA can object to based on the way that agreement is written. It’s tough to accept, but it’s reality, and don’t forget the players have as much to worry about in terms of the business of the season with the 50/50 split in revenues, and that’s a point that’s been emphasized as well in the last couple of days.

Chris Johnston: What’s interesting for me is a number of those player calls you referenced are actually one-on-one calls, because there’s a lot of players that didn’t take too kindly to this news, that they’re disappointed and wanted to at least be able to have some conversation about what their options might be, talk to Don Fehr and the NHLPA lawyers to see if they have any options, and really what they’re being told is, no, there’s no ability here to take a leave of absence and go play in Beijing if you want to go. Remember back in 2018 in Pyeongchang the NHL didn’t go, there was some talk that maybe someone like Alex Ovechkin might still try to go, that didn’t happen then and so I don’t expect before Beijing that we’ll see any players try to break away and go on their own.

Gino Reda: Bitter disappointment on the players side, but potentially a glimmer of hope?

Darren Dreger: Well, I suppose a glimmer of hope depending on how you look at it. Could the Beijing Winter Olympics be postponed because of the pandemic? The IOC and the host committee are certainly not expecting or hoping that, in fact, the IOC was reportedly quoted earlier this month talking about how their intention is to push forward with the Winter Olympics in 2022, but you know what, the NHL and the Players’ Association had a full expectation that they weren’t going to postpone nearly as many games 10 days ago, as they have today. They weren’t expecting or hoping that they were going to have to shut down NHL clubs, but that has turned out to be the reality of the pandemic. So, if this is out of the control of the IOC or the host committee in Beijing, and they have no choice because COVID, to postpone for at least one year, then you can bet the NHL and the NHLPA are going to be there and the players who would have loved to represent their country this time around will be happy to do so in a year. Again, not the expectation, not a want of the IOC or the host committee, but COVID remains in control.

Gino Reda: With the NHL hitting pause on the regular season, no games at all from Dec. 22-26, dozens of games have been postponed, what’s the plan to make up these games?

Pierre LeBrun: The schedule maker, we’re told, is already at work. I heard from a couple teams today that say they heard from Steve Hatze Petros, who is the schedule maker for the NHL, about a heads-up, saying, hey at some point soon we’re going to need your updated building dates, obviously for that three-week gap in February where there’s no longer going to be the Olympic Games. But, it goes beyond just trying to reschedule all the games that have been cancelled, some teams have’t had games postponed because of COVID but you can’t have those teams sit on the sidelines for three weeks in February while all the other teams get their rescheduled games played. There’s going to have to be a redux of things, really, for all 32 teams so that there’s some rhythm to the season, and no one gets left behind. So, it’s a more complicated process than it sounds like on the surface, if it wasn’t already complicated enough. The other thing is, I don’t think you’ll see the league come out and announce its revamped schedule for a bit here, because we know that there’s going to be more cancellations, more COVID situations over the next few weeks, well into January, so I think the league will wait at least until mid-January before coming out and saying, okay here’s how the rest of the season potentially looks like.

Chris Johnston: One place they can find a few more days to stage those games if they wanted, would be the start of February when the all-star game is due to be in Las Vegas, but I’m told at this point in time that’s not even on the table, it’s all systems go, in fact some believe it might even be easier now to send the players to Vegas and have that all-star weekend with Beijing out of the picture. It just removes some complications due to travel, that way, and so it looks as though the all-star game will go ahead as things stand right now. The other thing that hasn’t been discussed, is potentially lengthening the end of the regular season. Basically from Dec. 27 to April 29 you’re looking at about 119 days available to Steven Hatze Petros to fill out that schedule and at least as we’re sitting here now, they feel that can get in the 82-game schedule with that amount of time remaining.

Gino Reda: We talked a lot about the fact that there’s a number of NHLers that are very disappointed to not be able to go to the Olympic Games, but you can bet, at the same time, there are a few dozen Canadians currently playing pro-hockey in Europe who are now waiting by the phone, thinking they may be headed to the Olympics.