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Report: NHL edging closer to deal with IOC

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Most assumed we would have a deal in place for the NHL players to compete in Sochi by the end of the World Hockey Championships, which came and went last month. Now it’s at the end of the NHL season, which we’re mere days away from. And while officials are saying that things are getting closer and closer, nothing is signed, making this report the exact same as all of these!

“Hopefully within the next couple of weeks we’ll have a formal agreement done,” Hockey Canada President Bob Nicholson told Sportsnet.ca.

“We certainly have our sights that the NHL players will be there, but we still have to get that done with the NHL and the NHL Players’ Association. I can tell you that in all the meetings I’ve been in with those parties, the IIHF, the IOC – everyone wants it. Now we’re just trying to cross all the t’s and dot the i’s.”

If that’s true, that would be a change of heart for NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, who said after Vancouver Games that he wasn’t a fan of his players participating because it costs the league money and disrupts the season. Bettman also admitted last week that time is running out to get a deal done, because the NHL needs time to prepare for a new season, including making the schedule, which can’t be done until they decide if the league will be taking a two-week hiatus for the Olympics or not.

“Once we get the Olympics figured out we will start focusing on a long term, Olympic, World Cup, world championship international competition calendar,” Bettman said ahead of the Stanley Cup Finals. “These are all things we are intrigued by and think are great opportunities for hockey worldwide.”

From what we can tell, the sticking point still remains that the NHL is looking to lock up media rights, travel and hospitality for NHL players, owners, officials, and families, and a decision on which party will pay to insure the more than $3 billion in players contracts at the Olympics.

This would be the fifth straight Olympics with NHL players, dating back to the 1998 Nagano Games when future hall-of-famer Dominik Hašek tended goal for the champs from the Czech Republic.

Hope Solo: I wouldn’t go to Olympics if I had to choose today

Hope Solo
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U.S. goalie Hope Solo said she would not go to the Rio Olympics if she had to choose today, citing being uncomfortable with the current situation in Brazil including the Zika virus, according to SI.com.

Pregnant women are at risk from the mosquito-borne, Brazil-based virus, Rio Games organizers medical director Dr. Joao Grangeiro said last week, according to The Associated Press.

It has sometimes been associated with a brain birth defect.

Olympic soccer matches will be held not only in Rio but also several other Brazilian cities that may have more mosquitoes and a greater Zika risk.

“No athlete competing in Rio should be faced with this dilemma,” Solo, a two-time Olympic champion, said, according to SI.com. “Female professional athletes already face many different considerations and have to make choices that male professional athletes don’t.

“We accept these particular choices as part of being a woman, but I do not accept being forced into making the decision between competing for my country and sacrificing the potential health of a child, or staying home and giving up my dreams and goals as an athlete. Competing in the Olympics should be a safe environment for every athlete, male and female alike. Female athletes should not be forced to make a decision that could sacrifice the health of a child.”

Grangeiro said the athletes would not be at risk during the Olympics in August, that there will be fewer mosquitoes in Brazil’s winter (opposite the U.S. summer), according to the AP.

“We will not have an epidemic or pandemic situation,” Grangeiro said, according to the AP. “We can’t say we won’t have any cases [during the Games], but we see this as a minimal risk.”

Solo and the U.S. women’s soccer team begin their Olympic qualifying tournament Wednesday (on NBC Sports Live Extra, full schedule here).

MORE: U.S. women’s soccer named 20-player Olympic qualifying roster

How to watch U.S. Olympic marathon trials

Meb Keflezighi
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The U.S. Olympic marathon trials will air live for the first time, on NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra on Saturday from 1-4 p.m. ET.

The top three finishers in each of the men’s and women’s races in Los Angeles will become the first members of the 2016 U.S. Olympic track and field team.

The men’s race (1:06 p.m. ET) includes 2012 Olympic trials winner Meb Keflezighi hoping to become the oldest U.S. Olympic runner ever, Olympic 10,000m silver medalist Galen Rupp in his 26.2-mile debut and three-time Olympian Dathan Ritzenhein, who was fourth at the 2012 trials in Houston.

The women’s race (1:22 p.m. ET) includes all three 2012 Olympic marathon team members — Shalane FlanaganDesi Linden and Kara Goucher. Plus, Amy Hastings Cragg, who was fourth at trials four years ago.

Tom Hammond hosts coverage, joined by Craig Masback, Tim Hutchings, Lewis Johnson and Carrie Tollefson.

Olympic Marathon Trials Previews: Men | Women