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IIHF president: We found money to get NHL players to Olympics

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IIHF president Rene Fasel says one of the keys to NHL participation in the 2018 Olympics — covering the travel costs for players — is no longer an issue.

“At the end I think we can balance the numbers and the figures,” Fasel told media Monday, according to ProHockeyTalk audio. “It’s not any more a financial issue.”

Still, Fasel repeated that he believes it’s a 50-50 shot that the NHL takes its usual break and sends players to the Olympics, as it has done at the last five Winter Games. The NHL, which didn’t decide on 2014 Olympic participation until July 2013, is expected to decide by January on Pyeongchang 2018.

The NHL is unhappy that the International Olympic Committee is not willing to pay some of the travel costs for NHL players to play at the Winter Games, as it has at previous Olympics. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in May that the travel costs issue would have “significant impact” on the NHL’s decision.

Fasel said the IIHF and the IOC split travel costs for the Sochi Olympics.

The IIHF, the NHL as well as representatives from USA Hockey and Hockey Canada are meeting in New York on Wednesday as the NHL continues to deliberate.

Fasel said he’s going into Wednesday’s meeting with a goal “to get the players and the NHL to decide to go to Korea.”

“We found, more or less, the money to finance it, the transportation and insurance, and we will see,” Fasel said on TSN radio, adding to CBC, “We have the money to pay the transportation and the insurance cost, so I really hope that we can really focus on the different, other issues.”

Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin has repeated he plans to play in the 2018 Olympics regardless of if he has the NHL’s blessing. Capitals owner Ted Leonsis has supported Ovechkin’s stance.

Could other players follow Ovechkin’s lead?

“Could be,” Fasel said. “Knowing Alexander, Ovi is the kind of person, and I would not be surprised that the owner would let him go, but I don’t think that the league would be happy.”

MORE: 2018 Olympic men’s hockey groups set

Yuzuru Hanyu opens Olympic season with record score

Yuzuru Hanyu
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A sore knee didn’t hold Yuzuru Hanyu back. A record score to open his Olympic season.

The Olympic and world champion from Japan hit a pair of quadruple jumps in his short program at the Autumn Classic, a lower-level event in Montreal.

He was rewarded with 112.72 points, the highest short program score recorded under the 13-year-old judging system. Video is here.

It looked like a home competition for Hanyu.

Upon finishing, he bowed toward one set of bleachers (maybe a dozen rows) at the Sportsplexe Pierrefonds. More than two dozen Japanese flags made it hard to see most of the faces.

He bettered Javier Fernández, a two-time world champion and training partner, by 11.52 points. Fernández also landed two quadruple jumps to tally 101.2.

Full scores will be here upon the conclusion of the short program. The free skate is Saturday at 8 p.m. ET. A live stream is here.

Hanyu now owns the three highest short program scores under the 13-year-old system. The other two were set in the 2015-16 season.

Showdowns like Hanyu-Fernández are usually reserved for, at the earliest, the Grand Prix series in late October and November.

Hanyu and Fernández are very familiar with each other, having shared a coach in Canadian Brian Orser, the 1988 Olympic silver medalist, since 2012. They train in Toronto.

In that time, Hanyu became the first Japanese man to win an Olympic title (and the second teen from any nation to do it). He followed it up with world titles later in 2014 and this year.

Fernández achieved unfathomable success for a Spanish skater — world titles in 2015 and 2016, overtaking Hanyu in the free skate both times.

In PyeongChang, Hanyu can become the first man to repeat as Olympic champion since Dick Button in 1952. Fernández can become the third Spaniard to earn a Winter Olympic medal of any color in any sport, and the first since 1992.

The figure skating season continues next week with Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany, the final Olympic qualifying competition. North Korea could clinch its first spots in any sport for the Olympics in the pairs event.

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MORE: What to watch every day of PyeongChang Olympics

USOC letter assures Olympians about South Korea security

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The U.S. Olympic Committee’s security chief sent a letter to potential Winter Olympians saying there are no indications that recent developments between the U.S. and North Korea have compromised security in South Korea.

The letter, obtained by The Associated Press shortly after it was sent Friday, makes no suggestion that the U.S. is considering skipping the PyeongChang Winter Games for security reasons.

But Chief Security Officer Nicole Deal does write that provocations that have been volleyed between the United States and North Korea are likely to persist for the foreseeable future, and “should not be dismissed as insignificant nor feared as precursors of an inevitable conflict.”

The letter comes at the end of a week in which France’s sports minister suggested the country’s athletes would stay home if security could not be guaranteed.

The International Olympic Committee, trying to calm concerns, reiterated that in conversations with high-level officials in China and South Korea, none have expressed doubt about the Winter Games proceeding as scheduled, next February.

The USOC also sent out a public statement Friday from CEO Scott Blackmun.

“We will continue to work with our State Department and local organizers to ensure that our athletes, and our entire delegation, are safe,” he said.

The letter, sent to athletes, national governing bodies and other Olympic leaders in the United States, said the USOC’s security division is operating as “business as usual for our security planning and preparations.”

Deal writes that the USOC is reviewing crisis management plans that address a range of potential scenarios “to ensure our athletes, and our entire delegation, are safe.”

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