Around the Games: Day 11 - 2014 Winter Olympic Games

NHL boss: “What comes next we’ll all have to figure out”

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SOCHI, Russia — Let’s start with a direct quote from NHL commissioner Gary Bettman:

“I don’t want to get into what the pros and cons are for participating. Everybody knows them, and they’ve been debated ad nauseam. We are here because we think it’s great to be here today at this tournament. What comes next we’ll all have to figure out, as we’ve done each of the other times that the NHL players have participated.”

Because that, folks, is the most important takeaway from today’s press conference that featured Bettman, NHLPA chief Donald Fehr, and IIHF president René Fasel. Anyone who figured we’d learn something more definitive about the future of NHL participation in the Olympics was left disappointed, and was probably a bit naive to figure that in the first place.

“It’s nothing that’s been discussed. It’s nothing that will be discussed while we’re here in Sochi.”” said Bettman of the potential to send NHLers to Pyeongchang, South Korea, in 2018.

“From our standpoint, we have a process we go through,” said Fehr. “We have a significant time period which we talk to the players, digest what they have to say, figure out what they want, and then they tell me what they’d like me to do, and we try and make that happen. And that process will play out after the Games.”

The most entertaining part of today’s affair came near the end, when Fasel — a big supporter of maintaining NHL participation — said, “There is nothing like an Olympic gold medal in the life of an athlete. Nothing.”

To which Bettman responded, “Except perhaps winning the Stanley Cup.”

So failing any actual hard answers, at least there were some laughs.

At this point, the ball seems very much in the court of the players. As we wrote last week, if NHLers want to keep coming to the Olympics, they need to make that clear.

“None of this moves forward at all, if it moves forward at all, if the players don’t want to play,” said Bettman. “The reason we’re here in the first instance is this is a game with a history and tradition of international competition and our players, NHL players, love representing their countries. And so, if the players ever said, ‘We’re not interested,’ we’re not going to ever force them to go.”

As for when the decision will be made? Fehr employed a famous legal phrase: “I think it will be done…with all deliberate speed. You do it as fast as you can, but in a democratic organization, you have to do it at the rate the players are prepared to do it. All the players.”

Bettman backed the time frame of six months that was proposed by deputy commissioner Bill Daly.

“As a logistical matter, subject to what Don said, we don’t see why it couldn’t be done in that time frame,” said Bettman. “Frankly, if we’re going to continue to participate, having as long a runway as possible to use the advantages would be a good thing. And if we’re not going to participate, giving the various national federations an opportunity to adjust to that, giving them as much time as possible would be good.”

How to watch Alpine skiing World Cup Soelden on NBC Sports

Mikaela Shiffirn
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Olympic champions Mikaela Shiffrin and Ted Ligety open the World Cup Alpine skiing season in Soelden, Austria, this weekend, live on the NBC Sports app.

Shiffrin, the youngest Olympic slalom gold medalist, faces a field including Swiss World Cup overall champion Lara Gut in the women’s giant slalom Saturday.

The first run is at 4 a.m. ET and the second run at 7 a.m. ET, both live on the NBC Sports app.

Ligety, the Olympic and world giant slalom champion coming back from a torn ACL, looks for his fifth Soelden victory Sunday. He’ll go up against home favorite Marcel Hirscher, the five-time reigning World Cup overall champion.

The first run is at 4 a.m. ET and the second run at 7 a.m. ET, both live on the NBC Sports app.

This weekend’s races open a season that will run through the end of March.  U.S. Olympic champions Lindsey Vonn and Julia Mancuso are expected to make their season debuts later this fall.

The world championships are in St. Moritz, Switzerland, in February. The World Cup Finals, the last races of the season, will be in Aspen, Colo., in March.

Day Coverage Network Time (ET)
Saturday Women’s Giant Slalom Run 1 (LIVE) NBC Sports app 4 a.m.
Women’s Giant Slalom Run 2 (LIVE) NBC Sports app 7 a.m.
Women’s Giant Slalom Universal HD 3 p.m.
Sunday Men’s Giant Slalom Run 1 (LIVE) NBC Sports app 4 a.m.
Men’s Giant Slalom Run 2 (LIVE) NBC Sports app 7 a.m.
Men’s Giant Slalom NBCSN 9:30 p.m.

ALPINE SKIING: Men’s preview | Women’s preview

How to watch Skate America on NBC Sports

DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 20:  (L-R) Ashley Wagner with silver, Mao Asada of Japan with gold and Elena Radionova of Russia with bronze pose with their medals after the ladies free at Skate America 2013 at the Joe Louis Arena on October 20, 2013 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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Ashley Wagner and Gracie Gold highlight the field for Skate America, the biggest annual international figure skating competition in the U.S., live on NBC and the NBC Sports app this weekend.

Terry Gannon will be on the call with 1998 Olympic champion Tara Lipinski and two-time U.S. Olympian Johnny Weir.

Competition in Hoffman Estates, Ill., runs from Friday through Sunday. will also have live streaming coverage for subscribers.

Wagner, the world silver medalist, and Gold, the U.S. champion, are joined in Chicagoland by three-time world champion Mao Asada of Japan.

The men’s field is led by world bronze medalist Jin Boyang of China, Grand Prix Final bronze medalist Shoma Uno of Japan and the last two U.S. champions — Adam Rippon and Jason Brown.

U.S. pairs champions Tarah Kayne and Danny O’Shea and ice dance champions Maia and Alex Shibutani are also competing.

Skate America is the first of six events in the Grand Prix series, with top skaters competing twice over six weeks looking to qualify for the Grand Prix Final in Marseille, France, from Dec. 8-11. Six per discipline qualify for the Grand Prix Final.

SKATE AMERICA: Preview | Gold mulled skipping GP | Wagner has 2 years left

The broadcast and streaming schedule is here:

Day Time (ET) Program Network
Friday 8:05 p.m. Women’s Short (LIVE)
Friday 10 p.m. Pairs Short (LIVE)
Friday 11 p.m. Women’s Short Universal HD
Saturday 2:05 p.m. Men’s Short (LIVE)
Saturday 4:30 p.m. Women’s Free (LIVE) NBC, NBC Sports app
Saturday 8 p.m. Short Dance (LIVE)
Saturday 9:40 p.m. Pairs Free (LIVE)
Saturday 11:30 p.m. Men’s Short Universal HD
Sunday 12:30 a.m. Pairs Free Universal HD
Sunday 12:30 p.m. Men’s Free (LIVE) NBC, NBC Sports app
Sunday 2:45 p.m. Free Dance (LIVE)
Sunday 9 p.m. Free Dance Universal HD
Monday 8 p.m. Women’s, Men’s Free Universal HD

MORE: Full figure skating season broadcast schedule