What's holding up the Capitals' schedule?

What's holding up the Capitals' schedule?
July 19, 2013, 8:00 am
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Oates settling in during first full offseason with Caps

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman speaks during a press conference at the Crowne Plaza Times Square.

(Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)

By now, you’re probably wondering when the Capitals are going to release their 2013-14 regular season schedule.

You’re probably itching to know when Sidney Crosby will make his first visit to Verizon Center, just so you can begin loosening up those vocal cords.

And you’re probably thinking, “Didn’t the NHL release its schedule earlier in the summer last year?”

The answer is yes. The NHL released its 2012-13 schedule on June 19 last year. Of course, large chunks of those games were lopped off in October, November and December during the dreaded lockout.

But enough of that.

The delay in releasing this year’s schedule is due to the Winter Olympics and a lack of agreement between the NHL, its players, the International Olympic Committee and the International Ice Hockey Federation.

Heck, there isn’t even a formal agreement on whether NHL players will even participate in the Winter Games, which will be held in Sochi, Russia in February.

“There has been no final agreement on the terms of Olympic participation at this point,” NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told NHL.com. “And unless, or until, there is, the release of the 2013-14 regular-season schedule would be premature.

“Having said that, we hope that a final resolution on both matters can be achieved in the very near future.”

Let’s be clear about this. NHL players will participate in the Sochi Games and the league has already crafted a schedule that incorporates a break of at least two weeks to allow players to participate in the men’s ice hockey tournament, which runs from Feb. 12-23.

It will mark the fifth time NHL players participate in the Winter Games, beginning in 1998 in Nagano, Japan.

The NHL shut down for 17 days during the 1998 Winter Games. Since then the league has suspended action for 12 days [Salt Lake City 2002], 15 days [Turin, Italy 2006] and 14 days [Vancouver 2010].

If the NHL allows two days of travel before and after the men’s tournament, it will be looking at a 16-day break in the 2013-14 schedule, from Feb. 10-25.

One of the issues that has delayed an agreement is the players’ ability to secure insurance. An agreement reportedly has been made to cover the players during their participation in the Winter Games, but not during their summer orientation camps.

The U.S. men’s Olympic team has scheduled an orientation camp at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington from Aug. 25-29, but unless the players can secure insurance for that camp, they may not hit the ice during those five days, reducing the camp to a series of meetings and video sessions.