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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.

Simone Biles among Time Person of the Year finalists

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 07: Simone Biles of the United States competes on the uneven bars during Women's qualification for Artistic Gymnastics on Day 2 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Rio Olympic Arena on August 7, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
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Simone Biles is one of 11 finalists for Time‘s Person of the Year.

Time‘s Person of the Year, named annually since 1927, has never been an individual athlete or team. Tennis player Billie Jean King was part of the “American Women” group named in 1975.

In 2015, the 1976 Olympic decathlon champion Caitlyn Jenner was one of eight finalists.

The Person of the Year “is the person or persons who most affected the news and our lives, for good or ill, and embodied what was important about the year.”

Biles, 19, is the only teenager finalist and is six years younger than the youngest-ever solo Person of the Year, Charles Lindbergh in 1927. Biles won four gold medals and one bronze in Rio, the largest collection for a female gymnast at one Olympics since 1988.

The Person of the Year will be announced on Wednesday morning on “Today.”

Here are the finalists, in alphabetical order:

Simone Biles
Hillary Clinton
CRISPR Scientists
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
Nigel Farage
The Flint Whistleblowers
Beyoncé Knowles
Narendra Modi
Vladimir Putin
Donald Trump
Mark Zuckerberg

VIDEO: Biles shows Stephen Colbert how to stick the landing

Tonga flag bearer Pita Taufatofua eyes 2018 Winter Olympics

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 08:  (BROADCAST - OUT) Pita Taufatofua of Tonga poses for a photo on the NBC Today show set at Copacabana Beach on August 8, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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Tonga’s famous flag bearer, Pita Taufatofua, said he wants to compete at the 2018 Winter Olympics as a cross-country skier.

“I’m going to be taking my Olympic dream one step further,” Taufatofua said in an Olympic Channel video published Monday. “My goal is to let people see, if I can do it, they can do it. The goal is to hunt down that Olympic medal at the 2018 Olympics.”

Sure enough, Taufatofua already has an International Ski Federation bio page. The federation lists one other Tongan cross-country skier with a bio, Makeleta Stephan, who was last of 93 finishers in a 2015 World Championships event.

In 2014, Bruno Banani became the first Tongan to compete at a Winter Olympics, placing 32nd in men’s luge. He was later the subject of a documentary. Banani gained fame starting in early 2012, when the story of his name was widely publicized. Banani’s real name is Fuahea Semi, but he changed it to the name of his German clothing sponsor as a marketing ploy.

Taufatofua lost his opening Olympic taekwondo match by mercy rule in Rio, two weeks after his his shirtless, oiled-up appearance in the Opening Ceremony.

Judging by the Olympic Channel video, Taufatofua’s chances of qualifying for the Olympics look better for Tokyo 2020 than Pyeongchang 2018.

PHOTOS: Tongan flag bearer steals show at Opening Ceremony