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IIHF aims to keep NHL players in the Olympics

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NHL hockey is back, but whether or not the pros will be in Sochi next winter is still up in the air. The players – particularly Russian stars Evgeni Malkin and Alex Ovechkin – want to play, but league commissioner Gary Bettman thinks it’s a disruptive waste of time, money, and resources.

Despite a 113-day lockout of more marathon sessions than you can count, the Olympics weren’t discussed. So now it’s up to IIHF President and IOC member Rene Fasel to come to the table and work out a deal to which everyone can agree.

“Once the CBA is ratified and there has been some cooling-down period, we will sit together with the IOC, the NHL, and NHLPA to find solutions how to make sure that Sochi 2014 becomes the fifth consecutive best-on-best Olympic event,” Fassel told the G&M.

“As I have always pointed [out] whenever asked questions about NHL players’ participation, our doors are always open and I am confident that we will find ways — like we did in Nagano, Salt Lake City, Turin and Vancouver — to stage this event on the biggest sporting stage there is.”

Which is all well and good from a PR standpoint, but the Olympics are thirteen months away.

Apparently the NHL is looking to profit from the discussions with the IIHF, and will request everything from ticket access and better hotels, to sponsor recognition, and a loosening of the strict IOC video and media guidelines. And unlike the recent lockout discussions, the league seems to be holding most of the cards.

Negotiations should start at some point within the next few weeks. Until then: hockey!

President Obama to female Olympians: ‘Y’all crushed it’ (video)

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 29:  U.S. President Barack Obam (R) is presented with a Team USA surfboard by Olympian Simone Biles (2nd L) as first lady Michelle Obama (L) looks on during an East Room event at the White House September 29, 2016 in Washington, DC. President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama welcome the 2016 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams to the White House to honor their participation and success in the Rio Olympic Games this year.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
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President Barack Obama hosted the 2016 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams at the White House on Thursday.

Obama opened his speech by saying that he had planned on doing a floor routine with Simone Biles, before ultimately deciding that the room was too crowded. First Lady Michelle Obama interjected to remind the crowd that her husband “can’t touch his toes.”

The President then singled out the athletic accomplishments of Olympians including Biles, Michelle Carter, Simone Manuel, Claressa Shields, Kristin Armstrong, Kim Rhode, Allyson Felix, Brianna Rollins, Nia Ali, Kristi Castlin, Katie Ledecky, Michael Phelps and the men’s and women’s basketball teams.

He also recognized: Ibtihaj Muhammad, the first American to compete in the Olympics wearing a hijab, Sam Kendricks, the U.S. Army reservist who put down his pole and stood at attention when the national anthem started playing, Will Claye, who proposed to U.S. hurdler Queen Harrison after winning an Olympic silver medal, and Abbey D’Agostino, who helped an opponent to her feet after a crash.

“That is exactly what the Olympic spirit and the American spirit should be all about,” Obama said about the sportsmanship of D’Agostino.

The President was particularly enthusiastic about the performance of the female athletes.

“2016 belonged to America’s women Olympians,” Obama said. “Y’all crushed it.”

Watch Obama’s full speech here.

After Obama’s speech, Biles presented him with a surfboard autographed by the Olympians in attendance.

“I’m going to have a lot of time to surf next year,” Obama said.

MORE: Photos of Team USA at the White House

Photos: Team USA at the White House

Twitter: @TeamUSA
Twitter: @TeamUSA
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President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama hosted the 2016 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams at the White House on Thursday.

Below are some of the best photos of Team USA from inside the White House: