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NHL-union talks could decide on going to Beijing Olympics

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New York (AFP)

The National Hockey League and its Players Association will resume negotiations Tuesday on a new collective bargaining agreement, with NHL talent competing at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics likely at stake.

The talks in Toronto will be the first formal session since September, when the league and union each agreed to waive the right to reopen talks after this season, keeping their current deal in place through the 2021-22 campaign.

NHL and union representatives met with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and International Ice Hockey Federation in New York on Wednesday to discuss participating at Beijing.

The league did not shut down and allow its players to compete during the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games where the Olympic Athletes from Russia capture gold. NHL talent had taken part in five consecutive Winter Olympics starting at Nagano in 1998.

Russian star Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals had vowed to play for Russia in Pyeongchang but eventually stayed home and led the Capitals to the Stanley Cup title in 2018.

The IOC had paid for travel, insurance and lodging for NHL players but refused to do so in 2018 and an ice hockey federation move to pay $20 million of those costs failed, in part because NHL owners feared injuries to their stars.

"Even if the IOC does everything we ask for, I think the only way Olympic participation in 2022 is going to happen is if it's really a part of a bigger negotiation with the players association," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said.

"Part of it is tied to our labor situation and labor peace for an extended period of time."

The future of the NHL's World Cup of Hockey will also be part of talks about a broader calendar. The event was staged with eight teams at Toronto in 2016 but won't be played this year.

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