Michael Phelps
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Michael Phelps touched by reaction to Sports Illustrated story

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Michael Phelps popped on social media, scanned strangers’ comments and friends’ text messages after his revealing Sports Illustrated cover story came out Tuesday.

“How did it feel to say whatever you want to say and be human?” friends asked.

“I don’t have anything to hide,” Phelps told media Wednesday. “I’m a human being. Everything’s out there.”

He picked out one Twitter comment.

“I wasn’t that fond of him, but after reading this article my mind has really been interested in the sport and watching him over the next year,” Phelps paraphrased before adding his reaction. “I think just reading things like that, it’s pretty cool, and it’s the first time I felt that way.”

Phelps spoke Wednesday in Minneapolis, where he could swim in as many as six events at the meet kicking off the Olympic season.

“For me, when I see athletes tell their stories and be more human, I think there’s a better connection,” he said. “I think it just shows that we are all human beings, and it’s OK to seek help if you need it. I think that’s something that I hope a lot of people got out of that.

The meet runs from Thursday through Saturday, with live webcasts on USASwimming.org (10 a.m. ET prelims; 7 p.m. finals).

It’s the first meet including all four U.S. swimming headliners — Phelps, Ryan LochteMissy Franklin and Katie Ledecky — since the August 2014 Pan Pacific Championships.

A little more than one month after Pan Pacs, Phelps was arrested on DUI charges, beginning an 11-month journey that climaxed with a comeback at the U.S. Championships in August.

At Nationals, Phelps swam the world’s fastest times of the year in the 100m and 200m butterfly and the 200m individual medley, including the world’s fastest times in the butterfly events since 2009 (the record-wild, fast-suit era). He celebrated emphatically, slamming his arms in the San Antonio pool.

Minneapolis marks his first meet since, and the setting conjures memories of Phelps’ first Senior Nationals at the same University of Minnesota pool, when he was a 14-year-old in 1999.

Then, Phelps spent more time in awe of Olympic medalists Tom Dolan and Tom Malchow than on concentrating on his own swims.

“Dead last in two events,” coach Bob Bowman quipped Wednesday. “Very successful.”

Phelps’ confidence seems unshakable now, after emerging from the darkest time of his life last year and then lighting up the pool in San Antonio three months ago.

“There’s still more in the tank,” Phelps said. “I have very lofty goals [which Phelps, as his is policy, wouldn’t reveal]. … We’re working on getting faster.”

Phelps went into the U.S. Championships in August skeptical, after spring meets that left him describing his swimming as “horrendous” and “garbage.”

“As soon as the first one happened at Nationals, I thought, wow, I can really do something here,” Phelps said. “It kind of opened my eyes up.

“It just gives me, I guess, a lot more hope that there’s a lot more that him [Bowman] and I can do over the next year.”

Now, after spending three weeks training at altitude in Colorado Springs, he feels a little more like that kid who forgot to tie his suit strings and wore the wrong credential at the Sydney Olympics.

“I’m hungrier than where I was leading into 2012, besides the recovery part for me, how it’s a little bit slower nowadays,” said Phelps, who turned 30 on June 30 and in 2016 can become the oldest individual Olympic swimming champion. “I feel like I did in high school, like that kind of excitement level.”

Phelps said he’s “giddy.”

“It’s kind of scary going into this year,” he said, pausing for a second and then rephrasing. “Scary in a good way.”

MORE: Michael Phelps revealed comeback to family with 3 a.m. voicemail

USA Hockey to start reaching out to potential replacement players

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USA Hockey will begin reaching out to “alternate players” to determine their interest in playing for the U.S. at the women’s world championship next week amid a potential boycott by its national team.

The contact is taking place in the event a resolution cannot be reached between USA Hockey and the women’s national team in a wage dispute.

“It’s important for everyone to understand clearly that our objective is to have the players we named as the U.S. women’s national team be the ones that compete in the world championship,” said Dave Ogrean, executive director of USA Hockey, in a statement. “Productive conversations have taken place this week and are ongoing in our collective efforts to reach a resolution.”

The alternate players are in the professional NWHL and college, according to USA Today, a report that USA Hockey would not confirm.

U.S. captain Meghan Duggan has said every player in the U.S. national team player pool, plus under-18 national team players, committed to not playing at worlds unless the wage dispute is resolved.

“We are confident that they [potential replacement players] would choose not to play,” the U.S. players said in a statement.

The world championship tournament starts March 31 in Plymouth, Mich.

As of Thursday evening, no resolution has come between USA Hockey and its women’s national team. They met formally on Monday for more than 10 hours, with both sides calling it productive.

“We ask that they approve the original agreement that, the players believed, was acceptable to both parties after Monday’s meeting,” the players said in a statement. “Unless there is an agreement, the players remain resolved to bypass the defense of the world championship.”

Neither side has said when the next meeting will take place.

On Tuesday, USA Hockey said it postponed a pre-worlds camp that was to run through next Tuesday in Traverse City, Mich., and canceled a scheduled Friday exhibition against Finland.

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MORE: NHL asked for decision on Olympics by end of April

NHL asked for decision on Olympics by end of April

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International Ice Hockey Federation President Rene Fasel tells The Associated Press he needs to know by the end of April whether NHL players will be cleared to play in the South Korea Olympics next year.

NHL team owners have made it clear they don’t want to stop their season again for the Winter Games and put their stars at risk of injury. The reluctance has come up before and yet the NHL has participated in the Olympics since 1998. This time, however, there seems to be an impasse.

The head of the NHL Players Association, Donald Fehr, says the players want to participate and hopes the league will take advantage of the chance to market the game in Asia.

However, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly says without “material change to the current status quo, NHL players will not be participating in the 2018 Winter Olympics.”

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MORE: 2018 Olympic hockey groups set