No coverage, no ice for Sochi-bound NHLers

Should insurers blame themselves if Canada's hockey stars don't get gold at the Olympics? See what Steve Yzerman has to say about off-ice only orientation.

No coverage, no ice for Sochi-bound NHLers

Risk Management News

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Hockey Canada will be sending its NHL stars to the Sochi Winter Olympics without building any on-ice chemistry, citing high insurance costs for this week’s orientation camps.

“It’s strictly insurance,” said Steve Yzerman, the executive director of the national men’s team, as to why the players would not be lacing up the skates. “It’s because of the high cost of insurance Hockey Canada is obligated to place on the players we’re not going to skate.”

Estimates for insurance on the athletes have been placed at over $1 million for billions of dollars of contracts who have gathered in Calgary, Alta. for the four-day camp.

Although disappointed that the camps will not include any on-ice drills or practices, Yzerman does concede that the off-ice preparations are important too. (continued.)

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“Not going on the ice isn’t the end of the world,” said Yzerman. “There’s lot of other things that need to be done in preparation, logistically going through how we’re going to get there, where we’ll stay, where family and friends may stay, a walkthrough of the venues, drug testing policy, a lot of informational things we need to go through and get out of the way. This is a good time to do it.”

Instead, the orientation camp that started Sunday will involve informational meetings about the Games in Sochi, Russia, with the aim of fostering team chemistry off the ice.

Greg Sutton, the president of Sutton Special Risk, told InsuranceBusiness.ca that a simple injury from a player catching a skate edge on the ice or straining too hard from a lack of preparation can pose a significant insurance risk at the training camps.

“A strained knee or back can lead to an extended absence from the start of the 2013 regular season,” he said. “While there is likely to be very little contact, if any, over these four days of orientation camp, even if there are light on-ice drills, there is still risk exposure there.”

Sutton has personal disability policies with more than 450 NHL players and also handles insurance matters for the league and many of its 30 teams. He estimates that the cost of insuring the players could be around one million dollars for any national team made up mostly of NHL players. (continuued.)

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“There is a large concentration of risk at the camp; 47 players in total,” said Sutton, “plus they are the best in the country, representing significant contracts. In prior years the contracts weren’t as large, so this is an unprecedented exposure of almost $1.5 billion in outstanding contractual obligations to the players.”

Of the 47 players – consisting of five goaltenders, 17 defencemen and 25 forwards – who are at Hockey Canada’s headquarters at Canada Olympic Park, Canada can only take three goaltenders and 22 skaters to the Olympics.

It’s up to each country’s federation to insure NHL players against injury at summer camps.

USA Hockey has also decided against an on-ice component to its orientation camp, citing the same obstacles of insurance.
 

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