still hopeful NHL players will compete in Pyeongchang
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[March 23, 2017]
By Karolos Grohmann
BERLIN (Reuters) - The International
Olympic Committee was hopeful negotiations with the National Hockey
League would eventually be successful, allowing the world's best
players to compete at next year's Pyeongchang winter Games, the
governing body said on Thursday.
The NHL players' participation is traditionally a thorny issue for
the Olympics with the season forced to shut down for 2-1/2 weeks to
accommodate the Games while club owners are concerned with player
injuries and the high cost of insurance.
The NHL last met with the IOC and the International Ice Hockey
Federation in early February but talks have so far been unsuccessful
and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said this week it was unlikely the
players will travel to South Korea.
"We remain hopeful that the negotiations between the IIHF and the
NHL will prove successful," an IOC spokesperson told Reuters.
"The fans want to see the best hockey players taking part in the
Olympic Winter Games Pyeongchang 2018."
Bettman had told Reuters on Tuesday it should be assumed players
would not compete at the winter Games in South Korea.
"There are no negotiations ongoing," Bettman said. "We were open to
having discussions on a variety of things that might mitigate the
damage to our season but that had no resonance.
"As things stand now people should assume we are not going."
For handing over $3.5 billion in player contracts the NHL is seeking
something akin to IOC Top Sponsor status that would allow the league
to market the Winter Games on its platforms.
[to top of second column]
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman during an interview prior to the game
between the Calgary Flames and the Boston Bruins at Scotiabank
Saddledome. Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
The NHL has also said the IOC will have to backtrack
and pay player insurance and transportation costs after saying it
would no longer bear the costs like it had during the five previous
The NHL did not agree to go to the 2014 Olympics in Sochi until
July, 2013. While NHL owners have dug in, the IOC and IIHF have both
the players and the sponsors in their corner applying pressure.
Some players have said they will compete in the Olympics regardless
of the NHL's decision, while Japanese tire maker Bridgestone, which
is both an IOC Top Sponsor and major NHL advertiser, is trying to
help push a deal forward.
(Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)
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