NHL concludes Sochi visit; continues Olympic talks
Wednesday, 03.13.2013 / 11:38 AM / News
A delegation of representatives from the National Hockey League, led by Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, traveled this week to Sochi, Russia, site of the 2014 Winter Olympics.
During the three-day visit, the League officials visited the hockey venues and other facets of the Olympic infrastructure, as well as meeting with members of the Sochi organizing committee, the International Olympic Committee and the International Ice Hockey Federation to further discuss the League's participation in the 2014 Olympic hockey tournament.
"Yes, we've talked to the IOC, IIHF and the organizing committee just with respect to mostly logistical things -- travel, insurance for the players' contracts, hospitality for player and owner guests," Daly told Sovietsky Sport. "Those are all things we've been in discussions with those bodies for a number of weeks now and they've all been receiving them well."
The Sochi visit comes after the NHL, IOC, IIHF and National Hockey League Players' Association met last month in New York to discuss Olympic participation.
The League still needs to make a final decision on whether it will send its players to Sochi in the middle of the 2013-14 season. The Union also must approve the inclusion of its membership in the tournament.
"We hope to be in a position to bring a recommendation to our owners sometime this month ... by the end of this month," Daly told the paper.
If the League does decide to go to Sochi, it will have to institute a lengthy pause in the regular-season schedule. The 2014 Winter Olympics run from Feb. 7-23. Daly said in order to accommodate that window the League will need an extended break of 17 or 18 days.
"We are trying to work through and find solutions that make it sensible for us to shut down our season and come to Sochi with, estimates are, about 170-180 NHL players," Daly told Sovietsky Sport. "So that's the goal."
Daly said that he saw nothing during his tour of the facilities that would preclude participation by NHL players.
"The hockey venues are basically complete and would be suitable for our players," Daly said in the interview, referencing Bolshoy Ice Dome and Shayba Arena, which are located side-by-side in Sochi's Olympic Park.
Daly even said a less than ideal game schedule during the Olympics -- Sochi is eight to 11 hours ahead of North America -- can be overcome. With the time difference, many of the marquee games featuring the United States and Canada would air in the morning or early afternoon.
"We've seen a copy of the [Olympic hockey] schedule and will work with NBC and CBC to maximize time slots," Daly said. "It's not an ideal situation for North American TV but we'll do the best we can."
IIHF president Rene Fasel said he remains hopeful a binding agreement will be struck before May.
"This was a very good couple days of site visits of the Olympic venues and infrastructure, followed by some good discussions with the NHL representatives," Fasel said in a statement Wednesday. "I remain optimistic about the NHL's participation in Sochi and I hope that we can come to an agreement latest beginning of May, which would be good for the teams as to which players to select for the World Championships.
"It must be said that many challenges remain and that this is more than just an IIHF-NHL issue. We have also the IOC, the NHLPA, the Sochi organizers, the National Olympic Committees and the national ice hockey associations. There [is] lots of coordinating to be done."
The NHL has participated with its players in the Olympics in every Games since 1998 in Nagano, Japan.