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Gary Bettman: No evidence Olympics has improved NHL in North America

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NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said there’s no tangible, concrete evidence that Olympic participation since 1998 has benefited the NHL in North America.

“It hasn’t any impact,” Bettman said in a radio interview Wednesday. “We look at TV ratings, we look at attendance, we look at everything, and it’s been disruptive. Is it conceivable that in some places around the world, where they’re watching the Olympics, it might have a positive impact? I suppose, but I think back when we went to Nagano, Japan, [in 1998] the building that we played the event in, the day after the Olympics were over, they ripped out the ice.”

NHL officials have said there are no plans to participate in the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Games unless the status quo changes, but they haven’t made a final decision. They don’t want to take a break during their season to send players to the Olympics for a sixth straight time.

Bettman repeated some of the league’s concerns on Wednesday.

“We don’t even get the opportunity to promote the fact that we’re at the Olympics,” he said. “We don’t get to use the [Olympic] rings. I’ve said to the IOC, you know, Coca-Cola is a sponsor, they get to promote their association and say proud sponsor of the Olympics. They won’t let us do that, and we would lend player contracts worth something like $3.5 billion for those 17 days. There’s no recognition of the value by the IOC and the IIHF that we bring to the Olympics.

“To do it when there’s no football, and there’s no baseball, it’s really just us and basketball, and to get really no benefit of it. I’m not talking about compensation. We can’t market or promote that we’re there. We’re just there. And the IOC and the IIHF seem to be of the opinion that we should just be there, and whatever it takes, it takes.”

Four years ago, the NHL didn’t announce until seven months before the Sochi Olympics that it was participating in those Winter Games. But the NHL and Olympic officials had a handshake agreement one year before Sochi, according to Sportsnet.

“I understand why the Olympics want us there,” Bettman said Wednesday. “In terms of hours of TV programming in the Winter Olympics. In terms of most number of tickets sold for a sport in the Winter Olympics, hockey dominates.”

Bettman has cited owner fatigue, even negativity after five Olympics. Plus the 14-hour time difference from New York to PyeongChang, making for some Olympic games take place during the early morning for U.S. viewers.

“The world has changed since we started going, having our own network, having our own website,” Bettman said. “All of the things that we do with our fans, social media, on a daily basis, poof, we disappear. Because the IOC doesn’t let us do anything.”

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MORE: If no NHL at Olympics, who goes to PyeongChang?

Olympic ski cross champion suffers serious knee injury

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Canadian Marielle Thompson, the reigning Olympic and World Cup ski cross champion, ruptured an ACL and MCL in a training crash in Switzerland.

Alpine Canada did not say when the accident happened or what Thompson’s chances are of returning to defend her Olympic title in PyeongChang.

Thompson flew from Switzerland to Vancouver for an MRI that confirmed the injury.

“I’ll be making a plan with my team moving forward and when the time is right getting back on the ski cross course stronger than ever,” Thompson said in a press release.

Thompson, 25, tore a meniscus in January 2015 and returned to competition 11 months later. She won seven of the 13 World Cup races last season.

Other Olympic medal contenders include Swede Sandra Näslund and Swiss Fanny Smith.

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Nathan Chen leads Yuzuru Hanyu at Grand Prix opener (video)

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U.S. champion Nathan Chen hopes to become comfortable in this spot this season — ahead of reigning Olympic and world champion Yuzuru Hanyu in the standings.

The 18-year-old Chen landed two quadruple jumps in his short program at the opening Grand Prix event in Moscow, taking a 5.69-point lead over Hanyu going into Saturday’s free skate.

Two-time world champion Yevgenia Medvedeva of Russia topped the women’s short program with 80.75 points (one tenth off her world record).

Full Rostelecom Cup results are here.

Chen’s tally — 100.54 points — is the second-highest short of his flourishing international career. It would have been higher if not for two of his three jumping passes receiving negative grades of execution for wonky landings.

The Japanese megastar Hanyu fell on his final jump, a triple toe loop, on Friday. No matter, Winnie the Pooh bears rained down on the ice from the adoring crowd, many of whom traveled from Japan.

Hanyu scored 94.85 points, one month after breaking his world record short program score with 112.72 points in a small event in Canada.

“Today I made some mistakes in my short program, but overall it didn’t feel bad,” Hanyu said, according to the International Skating Union.

Hanyu, though he is the current PyeongChang favorite, has never won his season-opening Grand Prix event in seven tries.

Chen has now outscored Hanyu, who is four years older, in four of their last eight head-to-head skates.

Hanyu was better in the two biggest programs at last season’s world championships. Chen placed sixth at worlds in April, perhaps gassed at the end of his first senior season while competing on duct-taped skates.

In the women’s standings, Medvedeva topped Olympic bronze medalist Carolina Kostner of Italy by 6.13 points.

American Mirai Nagasu landed a triple Axel that was called under rotated and fell on her other two jumping passes. She ended up ninth, two spots behind U.S. bronze medalist Mariah Bell.

In the short dance, two-time world medalists and U.S. champions Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani tallied 77.30 points.

The siblings lead by .97 over Russians Yekaterina Bobrova and Dmitry Soloviyev going into the free dance.

Russians are one-two in pairs. World bronze medalists Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov lead Olympic silver medalists Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov by 5.49.

All of the free skates are Saturday, live on Olympic Channel. A full schedule is here.

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Rostelecom Cup
Men’s Short
1. Nathan Chen (USA) — 100.54
2. Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN) — 94.85
3. Dmitriy Aliyev (RUS) — 88.77
11. Grant Hochstein (USA) — 67.56

Women’s Short
1. Yevgenia Medvedeva (RUS) — 80.75
2. Carolina Kostner (ITA) — 74.64
3. Wakaba Higuchi (JPN) — 69.60
7. Mariah Bell (USA) — 63.85
9. Mirai Nagasu (USA) — 56.15

Short Dance
1. Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani (USA) — 77.30
2. Yekaterina Bobrova/Dmitry Soloviyev (RUS) — 76.33
3. Alexandra Stepanova/Ivan Bukin (RUS) — 71.32
7. Rachel Parsons/Michael Parsons (USA) — 59.41

Pairs Short
1. Yevgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov (RUS) — 76.88
2. Ksenia Stolbova/Fedor Klimov (RUS) — 71.39
3. Valentina Marchei/Ondřej Hotárek (ITA) — 68.48
7. Marissa Castelli/Mervin Tran (USA) — 54.37