Canada's Sidney Crosby celebrates after scoring the game-winning goal against the U.S. during overtime in their men's ice hockey gold medal game at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics February 28, 2010. (REUTERS)
It’s all but certain the National Hockey League will shut down for a little more than two weeks during the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia, to allow its players to compete in the Winter Games, according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie.
While Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin is on record saying he’ll be at the Sochi Games in his native country regardless of what the NHL says, league commissioner Gary Bettman has wavered when it comes to the conversation, at one telling NHL.com, “we loan out the most important assets (to the NHL) and nobody should underestimate that.”
But as TSN reported Tuesday, the NHL and its Players’ Association are looking for the best possible deal in allowing NHLers to travel to the south of Russia for an extended period of time when the Games begin Feb. 7.
In an interview with Around the Rings, International Ice Hockey Federation president Rene Fasel said he plans to meet with the parties involved to discuss next year’s Olympic tournament.
“The NHL just started playing [Jan. 19],” Fasel said. “I expect the discussion to begin as soon as the season is underway, so we just have to wait and let them start.
“I’m sure we will have direct talks … I will go wherever I need to go to make that deal. You can be assured of that.”
The major concern for the NHL and its players at this point isn’t the money involved, but the access and accommodations granted by the International Olympic Committee, including days between games, tickets and the permission to use Olympic-specific content it has been denied in the past.
“Here in Europe, we have to understand that the sport in North America is actually working differently,” Fasel said. “They are independent from a national or international federation. The system in Europe is another construction, so we are used to that.”
A year out from the tournament, Canada finds itself in Group B alongside Finland, Norway and a third qualifier to be named later this month.
The Olympic hockey preliminary round is scheduled to begin on Feb. 8, 2014, with the gold-medal game occurring Feb. 23.