Sportsnet hockey boss backs NHL move to skip Olympics

TORONTO — While fans and players have expressed disappointment and anger over the NHL’s decision to skip the 2018 Winter Olympics, Sportsnet hockey boss Scott Moore has no problem with the move.

The president of Rogers Sportsnet and NHL properties said in an interview Tuesday that as a fan, he’d love to see the best-on-best at the Olympics. As a broadcaster, however, he said he’d have made “the exact same decision” as the NHL.

The league announced Monday that it would not halt its schedule to accommodate the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. It will mark the first time since 1994 that NHL players haven’t participated in the Olympics.

Reaction from players and fans has been mostly negative, with superstar Alex Ovechkin even saying he plans to represent Russia in 2018 with or without the NHL’s blessing.

Moore, whose company purchased the NHL broadcast rights in 2013 for $5.2 billion, pointed out that the “horrible” time difference between Pyeongchang and Canada will mean most Olympic hockey games will be shown on a delayed basis, diluting their ratings impact for his sports channels.

With the league sticking to an uninterrupted schedule, Moore said he has the option of running NHL games opposite the Olympics.

“Frankly, I think this is good news for us,” he said. ”Live hockey in prime time will be up against taped events from the Olympics.”

Most men’s hockey games will start at noon, 4:30 p.m. or 9 p.m. local time. Pyeongchang is 14 hours ahead of the Eastern time zone in February meaning many games will be live in the wee hours in Canada. The gold medal game is set for 3 p.m. local time or 1 a.m. ET.

CBC, which holds the Olympic TV rights in Canada, said in a statement it was disappointed by Monday’s news but “we know Canadians are passionate about hockey at all levels of the game. We see it every year with the world junior championships and Spengler Cup and are confident Canadians will rally behind whoever represents Canada in Pyeongchang.”

Moore, who speaks regularly with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, also feels the International Olympic Committee’s aggressive negotiating stance “was a slap in the face to league officials.

“This is the only league in the world that is asked to shut down for 2 1/2 weeks at a key time in their schedule to supply players for free to drive somebody else’s business,” he said.

The IOC has “a great business model,” Moore said.

“They don’t pay a cent for their athletes,” he pointed out. “I’d love to have a business model like that.”

Money has been just one of the stumbling blocks in the negotiations between the NHL, the NHL Players’ Association and the IOC. NHL owners also didn’t like the idea of disrupting the season, citing concerns over a compressed schedule, and don’t see enough benefits in bringing their product to South Korea.

Moore added that the fact his or any other Canadian network cannot show Sidney Crosby’s golden goal from the 2010 Vancouver Olympics due to the IOC’s strict rights issues also rankles. Not even the NHL can post video of the goal that secured Canada a gold on home ice, Moore pointed out.

“Where’s the upside?” he said. ”You show me.”

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