Getty Images

Don’t expect ‘status quo’ to get NHLers to 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Games

Leave a comment

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The NHL is likely to skip the PyeongChang Olympics unless something big changes in the next few months.

The league’s owners are still leaning against allowing the world’s top hockey players to participate in the Olympics next year, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said Saturday.

In the league’s most strident comments yet on this quadrennial issue, Daly flatly said the NHL’s Board of Governors doesn’t want to shut down the league to allow its players to participate in South Korea. The owners’ minds would have to be changed by something dramatic, but Daly doesn’t know what that new ingredient would be.

“If the status quo remains, I don’t expect us to be in the Olympics,” Daly said.

The league and the International Ice Hockey Federation have no firm deadline to decide whether NHL players will participate in their sixth consecutive Olympics, but the final decision has already been left for later than in previous years.

The parties waited until June 2013 to execute their agreement for the Sochi Games, but the decision was made several months earlier. The NHL prefers to release its yearly schedule in June, which means a final decision might not be made until summer.

While the IIHF has found the money to cover the costs of a PyeongChang trip after some initial reluctance, the NHL has numerous concerns that aren’t overwhelmed by the excitement of nurturing the game overseas and exposing its biggest investments to injury.

Commissioner Gary Bettman drove the NHL’s decision to participate in its first Olympics in 1998, but the league sees fewer reasons to shut down for three weeks while playing a compressed schedule. Bettman said the issue “got about 10 seconds of discussion” at the board meeting Saturday because nothing has changed.

“I think the realities of Olympic participation are more apparent to our board now, and I think it just leads to less enthusiasm about the disruption,” Daly said. “Quite frankly, we don’t see what the benefit is from … the league standpoint anyway with respect to league participation, so that’s the challenge. As Gary said numerous times, if there was a compelling reason that we could bring to the board that this is something we should do again in Korea, then we present it to the board and see what they would have to say.”

Daly acknowledged that geography plays a role in the board’s position: PyeongChang is 14 hours ahead of New York, which will mean difficult game times for viewers in North America. The league also doesn’t anticipate major growth in its game from playing in South Korea.

“I think on occasion in the past, it has” produced growth in the game to play in the Olympics, Daly said. “I’m not sure it necessarily would in South Korea. Time and exposure, all those issues related to (being) a long way away.”

The IOC and the IIHF benefit enormously in exposure with the NHL’s participation. Bettman and IIHF President Rene Fasel are expected to meet up this weekend

The players gathered in Los Angeles for All-Star weekend are unanimously hopeful they’ll be allowed to play, but they’re aware of the increasingly strident tone against the games being taken by their owners.

“I don’t think you should be able to pick and choose what Olympics you go to,” said New Jersey forward Taylor Hall, who has been to world championships for Canada, but not the Olympics. “That’s not what the Olympics stand for. If you ever talk to anyone that has participated in the Olympics, whether it is a hockey player or a javelin thrower, it’s a special place. It’s something that I would love to be a part of, and I wouldn’t want to see it taken away because the NHL didn’t want to go to South Korea. It’s special no matter what.”

Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin has previously said that he would play for Russia in PyeongChang even if the league didn’t shut down. He didn’t repeat that declaration Saturday, one day after being recognized as one of the 100 greatest players in NHL history, but he left no doubt he wants to be there.

“I’m pretty sure everybody wants to go,” Ovechkin said. “When I talk to the guys from my team in Washington, everybody wants to go. I think it’s great for hockey, great for us and great for our countries.”

Alina Zagitova hands Yevgenia Medvedeva first loss in 2 years

Getty Images
1 Comment

Russian Yevgenia Medvedeva is no longer the clear favorite in the Winter Olympics’ marquee event.

The two-time world champion lost for the first time in more than two years, upset by training partner Alina Zagitova at the European Figure Skating Championships in Moscow.

Italian Carolina Kostner earned bronze.

Zagitova, the 15-year-old world junior champion, set personal bests in the short program and free skate and totaled 238.24 points. She beat Medvedeva by 5.38 points.

Medvedeva, in her first competition since November due to a broken foot, fully rotated all of her jumps Saturday, but Zagitova was cleaner. She also stumbled out of a double Axel in her short program.

“I did not feel the injury,” Medvedeva said after the short program, according to the International Skating Union. “Everything has healed.”

Full results are here. NBCSN will air coverage Saturday at 9 p.m. ET.

Zagitova was born three months after the Salt Lake City Olympics and without a name for her first year. Her parents eventually decided on Alina after watching Olympic rhythmic gymnastics champion Alina Kabayeva on TV.

She had been working to this point in her first senior international season. She swept her two fall Grand Prix starts, then won the Grand Prix Final in December, all without Medvedeva in the field.

On Saturday, she landed all of her jumps (including seven triples) in the second half of her program for 10 percent bonuses. It’s the type of technical content layout ambitious enough to challenge Medvedeva.

“I think that Zhenia [Medvedeva] is her role model in life, in behavior, in her way to work,” shared coach Eteri Tutberidze said last year, according to Goldenskate.com. “Alina absolutely tries to copy her way to work, the amount of work and she doesn’t stop. This helps. I can sometimes show Zhenia and say, ‘Look how Alina is working,’ and I tell Alina, ‘Look how Zhenia is working.’”

Medvedeva, whose last defeat was in November 2015, also won both of her Grand Prix starts, posting the world’s highest scores this season, while dealing with foot pain.

She underwent an MRI that revealed a crack, then withdrew from the Grand Prix Final and the Russian Championships in December. She is still expected to be on the Olympic Athlete from Russia team in PyeongChang.

Kostner, the 2014 Olympic bronze medalist who made her Europeans debut in 2003, fell on her opening triple Lutz and landed just three triple jumps Saturday.

She hung on to win a medal at her 11th straight European Championships.

Russian Maria Sotskova, the Grand Prix Final silver medalist, fell on her last triple jump, a Lutz, among other landing troubles. She placed fourth.

Those four skaters are the Olympic medal contenders along with Canadians Kaetlyn Osmond and Gabrielle Daleman and Japanese Satoko Miyahara and Kaori Sakamoto.

U.S. champion Bradie Tennell ranks 14th in the world this season.

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: NBC Olympics PyeongChang preview series on Netflix

Julia Marino, Hailey Langland qualify for Olympics; U.S. sweeps possible

Leave a comment

The addition of snowboard big air to the Olympics next month means Jamie AndersonJulia Marino and Hailey Langland have two chances for a U.S. podium sweep in PyeongChang.

Marino and Langland qualified for the U.S. big air and slopestyle team Saturday, joining the already qualified Anderson, who won slopestyle’s debut in Sochi.

Anderson, Marino and Langland swept the podium in that order at the last Olympic qualifier in slopestyle in Mammoth Mountain, Calif.

They also made up three of the top four riders at the 2017 X Games big air and slopestyle.

The U.S. has never swept the Winter Olympic medals in a women’s event but could do so in big air, slopestyle and even snowboard halfpipe in PyeongChang.

MORE: U.S. Olympic roster

While Anderson is the veteran, an X Games medalist 11 of the last 12 years, Marino and Langland represent the new wave of U.S. big air and slopestyle riders.

Marino, a 20-year-old from Connecticut who trains in Quebec, earned slopestyle and big air medals at X Games Aspen and Oslo last year in her debuts at those events.

They included slopestyle gold in Aspen over Anderson.

Langland, a 17-year-old from Southern California who plays the ukulele, guitar and piano, won the first X Games women’s big air title last year and took bronze in slopestyle in 2016.

Born in 2000, she is younger than any previous female Olympic snowboarding medalist.

“She reminds me of a younger me,” Anderson said, according to NBC Olympic Research.

The U.S. could add a fourth woman to the big air/slopestyle team, likely either Jessika Jenson or Ty Walker, a pair of 2014 Olympians in slopestyle.

The U.S. men are not as strong internationally in big air and slopestyle, where the Olympic favorites hail from Canada and Norway.

Kyle Mack won the last qualifier Saturday — without the top international riders in the field — to clinch the third and last automatic spot on the men’s big air/slopestyle team.

Chris Corning and Red Gerard previously qualified for PyeongChang. A fourth rider can be added via discretionary selection.

U.S. Olympic Qualifying Standings
Snowboard Big Air/Slopestyle 
(through five of five events)
Three riders auto qualify per gender; one possible discretionary spot
1. Chris Corning — 2,000* QUALIFIED
1. Red Gerard — 2,000* QUALIFIED
3. Kyle Mack — 1,800* QUALIFIED

4. Chandler Hunt — 1,400* (2nd and 3rd)
5. Ryan Stassel — 1,400 (2nd and 3rd)

1. Jamie Anderson — 2,000* QUALIFIED
2. Julia Marino — 1,800* QUALIFIED
3. Hailey Langland — 1,600* QUALIFIED
4. Jessika Jenson — 1,600 (1st and 3rd)
5. Ty Walker — 1,300 (2nd and 4th)
*Has automatic qualifying minimum of one top-three result against entire field.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

VIDEO: Shaun White scores perfect 100 to qualify for Olympics