After avoiding the Olympic discussion during the entire 113-day NHL lockout, and then putting it off again so the league could get itself situated for the start of an abbreviated season, it looks like we finally have some good news about NHL players heading to Sochi next February.
“It’s highly likely, just short of a foregone conclusion,” Bob McKenzie said on TSN, “that the National Hockey League will be shutting down for 16 days in the middle of next season to allow its players to participate in the Olympics.”
McKenzie added that the only thing keeping this decision from being shoved into the sure thing column is the NHL and the NHLPA’s desire to lock up a deal with the IOC and IIHF that would include better access to players, use of images and video, and better accommodations and tickets for the NHL. Or “basically being treated as if it was a major sponsor of the Olympics,” McKenzie explained.
It doesn’t hurt that two of the league’s top stars, Evgeni Malkin and Alex Ovechkin, are Russian and pushing hard to play at their hometown Olympics, or that the NHL needs a win with after alienating at least a few fans with the most recent lockout. So there’s really no reason to hold the players out other than scheduling.
There’s no timetable set, but May has been marked as a reasonable – if not broad – target date for a final decision by Hockey News, but don’t be surprised if we have to wait until the end of the season.