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Work remains for NHL involvement in Olympics

by Dave Lozo /

The National Hockey League on Friday had discussions with officials from the International Olympic Committee and the International Ice Hockey Federation about NHL players participating in the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

"We had a good working session and were able to discuss all of the issues involved in the possibility of having NHL players participate in the 2014 Sochi Games," NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement. "The parties are committed to continuing to work through the process, but there remains work to be done on all sides."

The NHL has sent its players to every Olympics since 1998 in Nagano, Japan.

Among the parties at the League offices in New York were NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman; Daly; NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr; IIHF President Rene Fasel; and Hockey Canada President and CEO Bob Nicholson, who is also a vice president of the IIHF.

Fasel said the meeting resulted in "good progress, but it is not yet done."

"There are still things remaining," Fasel said. "We have to go back and [do] some homework."

Fasel said he plans to be in Sochi next week for the IIHF World Under-18 Championship. He said despite media reports, insuring player contracts isn't the biggest sticking point for getting a deal done to bring NHL players to Sochi. Instead, it's the logistics of bringing the players to a city that is much smaller than Vancouver, host of the 2010 Games, and still is constructing living arrangements for all competing athletes.

"It's finding the balance between every request," Fasel said. "We are different partners there, everybody has to understand how it will be. But we are making progress.

"In 2010 it was a little bit different because the logistics were different. Also, Vancouver is different than Sochi -- the rooms, the hotels, the tickets, the size of the arena. So it makes it a little bit different. The arena in Sochi is not as big, so the ticket requests are not so easy. So we have to finalize that.

"Logistics is the biggest challenge. They would like to bring more people than only one guest per player, so we need more rooms, more tickets."

Fehr said there remains a ways to go before a resolution is reached, but he laughed when told of Fasel's belief that logistics is the overarching issue right now.

"I don't like to categorize the issues that way," Fehr said. "Having said that, clearly given the fact they are building all of these facilities new and you have size issues and you have to work through those, Rene will have to put his own level of importance on it."

Fasel said ideally he would like to have a deal completed by the start of the IIHF World Championship, which begins May 3 in Stockholm and Helsinki, but he isn't sure that’s plausible.

"I don’t know if we can get there, but the sooner the better," he said.

"I'm an optimistic person -- always," Fasel said. "I really hope we can do the deal, but still it was very constructive today. Everybody wants to be there; I can feel that. It's just to find the common dialogue for how we can make this thing happen. It will work."


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