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Ashley Wagner: ‘I’m in the last couple of years of my career’

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Ashley Wagner is coming off her greatest accomplishment in skating, but at 25 years old, won’t be competing too much longer.

“I am in the last couple of years of my career, and honestly I feel like I’m getting better and better every year,” Wagner said Thursday. “And I just want to enjoy the skating while I still have it.”

It would be no surprise if Wagner ends her career after the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games, should she make a second straight Olympic team and become the oldest U.S. Olympic women’s singles skater since 1928, according to sports-reference.com.

10/21 Update: Wagner elaborated on her comments before Skate America, saying she’s not ready to give an exact date when she will hang up her skates competitively. “I know I’m definitely toward the end of my career, and I want to go out toward the top. … I don’t want to be one of those skaters that hangs around forever.”

Wagner said she has nothing to prove after taking a silver medal at the world championships to end a 10-year U.S. podium drought and pin a longtime goal.

That makes Wagner the favorite at next week’s Skate America (free skate live on NBC on Oct. 22 from 4:30-6 p.m. ET), her biggest event since worlds in April.

“I can’t really rely on going into these competitions being a world silver medalist,” Wagner said. “I have to kind of accept that that happened. That’s the past, it’s something I have, but at the same time it doesn’t affect this season.”

Wagner has one competition under her belt this season, finishing third at the free skate-only Japan Open on Oct. 1 behind world champion Yevgenia Medvedeva of Russia and Satoko Miyahara of Japan.

Wagner called it “very successful,” given she said she was not in shape for a run-through, let alone a competitive program.

“I knew that the program components weren’t really going to be there because, for me, it was more just a run-through and getting the jumps out there under pressure,” Wagner said. “The performance wasn’t really there as a whole.”

Wagner’s goal for Skate America is to establish herself “as the leading U.S. lady.”

That means bettering Gracie Gold, who traded U.S. titles with Wagner the last four seasons. Gold had the highest short program score at worlds but fell to fourth after the free skate as Wagner ascended.

Wagner approached last season’s U.S. Championships as a step toward the world championships. She set to make the three-woman worlds team (a top-three finish, essentially) rather than putting too much emphasis on winning the national title. She’s keeping that mindset this year.

“I just really want to pace myself through nationals [in January], and my focus is getting to worlds and getting back onto that podium,” Wagner said.

Wagner, Gold and three-time world champion Mao Asada of Japan headline the Skate America field.

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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