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NHL says it will not participate in PyeongChang Olympics

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The NHL now considers the matter “officially closed.” It will not participate in the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

The league wanted a concession from the International Olympic Committee, International Ice Hockey Federation or the NHL Players’ Association to entice owners and officials to take a break in its season to accommodate the Olympics for a sixth straight time dating to 1998.

The NHL made clear for months its stance — it would not break for the Olympics if the status quo didn’t change.

Which led to Monday’s statement, in full:

“We have previously made clear that, while the overwhelming majority of our clubs are adamantly opposed to disrupting the 2017-18 NHL season for purposes of accommodating Olympic participation by some NHL players, we were open to hearing from any of the other parties who might have an interest in the issue (e.g., the IOC, the IIHF, the NHLPA) as to reasons the Board of Governors might be interested in re-evaluating their strongly held views on the subject. A number of months have now passed and no meaningful dialogue has materialized. Instead, the IOC has now expressed the position that the NHL’s participation in Beijing in 2022 is conditioned on our participation in South Korea in 2018. And the NHLPA has now publicly confirmed that it has no interest or intention of engaging in any discussion that might make Olympic participation more attractive to the clubs. As a result, and in an effort to create clarity among conflicting reports and erroneous speculation, this will confirm our intention to proceed with finalizing our 2017-18 regular season schedule without any break to accommodate the Olympic Winter Games. We now consider the matter officially closed.”

What did the NHL want in return for committing to PyeongChang?

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has cited “fatigue” among team owners about repeatedly taking a break during the season to send players to the Olympics. Owners have mentioned the risk of having their stars get injured away from their team in the middle of their seasons. South Korea, with its 14-hour time difference from New York, was also not as enticing a Winter Olympic host as, say, Canada or Russia, for the NHL to gain.

Other issues Bettman and other league and team officials expressed include a lack of exposure and benefit for the NHL, the league’s inability to use the Olympics for marketing due to sponsorship rules and money.

“If they [the IOC] don’t value our participation why are we going,” Bettman said last week, according to Reuters. “From our standpoint there may not be any next steps.”

Months ago, the NHL offered the NHLPA a deal allowing Olympic participation in exchange for a three-year extension of the collective bargaining agreement. Players turned that down, according to The Associated Press.

The NHLPA called the NHL’s decision “shortsighted”

“Any sort of inconvenience the Olympics may cause to next season’s schedule is a small price to pay compared to the opportunity to showcase our game and our greatest players on this enormous international stage,” the NHLPA said in a statement. “The NHL may believe it is penalizing the IOC or the players, or both, for not giving the owners some meaningful concessions in order to induce them to agree to go to PyeongChang. Instead, this impedes the growth of our great game by walking away from an opportunity to reach sports fans worldwide.

Moreover, it is doing so after financial issues relating to insurance and transportation have been resolved with the IOC and IIHF. The league’s efforts to blame others for its decision is as unfortunate as the decision itself.

NHL players are patriotic and they do not take this lightly. A decent respect for the opinions of the players matters. This is the NHL’s decision, and its alone. It is very unfortunate for the game, the players and millions of loyal hockey fans.”

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.

Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin has said he plans to play for Russia in PyeongChang no matter the NHL’s stance. Capitals owner Ted Leonsis has supported Ovechkin.

The NHL’s statement Monday made no mention of possible rules or penalties that would discourage or prohibit players from playing in the Olympics, other than missing NHL games.

Who will make up Team USA and Canada?

USA Hockey would look mostly to the college ranks if it couldn’t field NHL players. Canada eyes a mix of European-based professionals, North American minor-leaguers and players from the Canadian junior leagues and NCAA, according to the AP in February.

USA Hockey didn’t discuss roster specifics in a statement Monday evening.

“We respect the NHL’s decision and will examine our player pool options and plan accordingly,” assistant executive director hockey operations Jim Johannson said in a statement.

Hockey Canada said it wants NHL player participation.

“Today’s statement by the NHL is not what we were hoping for because, ultimately, we want best-on-best at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games which, for us at Hockey Canada, includes the participation of NHL players,” Hockey Canada President and CEO Tom Renney said in a statement. “This does not change our preparation for the Games — we have developed both a Plan A and a Plan B, and will be ready to move forward.”

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We’re halfway to a decathlon of Olympic sport touchdown celebrations over the last two seasons.

After the hurdles, the long jump, the bobsled and the relay came the race walk on Sunday.

Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams, once part of a three-man bobsled team, led three other teammates in a race walk after scoring in Sunday’s loss to the Carolina Panthers. (Adams later left the game with a concussion.)

Adams won the race walk, which was much, much shorter than the standard Olympic distances of 20km and 50km, over teammates Jordy NelsonRandall Cobb and Geronimo Allison.

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Canada in control of hockey rivalry going into Olympics

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Four years ago, the U.S. women’s hockey team rode a four-game winning streak over rival Canada into the Olympics, then lost both games in Sochi, including a gut-wrenching overtime final.

This time, Canada goes into the Winter Games having won four straight.

The Canadians beat the Americans 2-1 in overtime in Edmonton on Sunday night, taking their pre-Olympic series 5-3 overall.

“I don’t think it was our best performance,” Canada coach Laura Schuler said. “There’s still more work to do.”

The Canadians were led by their stalwarts — captain Marie-Philip Poulin scored in regulation, Sochi gold medalist Jennifer Wakefield scored 26 seconds into overtime and longtime goalie Shannon Szabados stopped 34 of 35 shots.

Hilary Knight netted the U.S. goal, with Maddie Rooney making 24 saves.

“The goal for us is to be hitting on all cylinders in February,” U.S. coach Robb Stauber said.

The U.S. appeared to be in that kind of form until about two weeks ago.

Before this losing streak, the U.S. had a 12-4 record against Canada since the start of 2015, including taking the last three world championship finals.

At one point, the U.S. won six straight games over a 12-month stretch, its longest streak over Canada since it famously won eight straight going into the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics then lost the gold-medal game.

Canada also beat the U.S. in their last four meetings before the 2006 Olympics and five straight going into the 2010 Olympics.

The U.S. Olympic team will be announced Jan. 1. The national-team roster is at 25 players (22 skaters, three goalies), but the Olympic roster is 23 (20 skaters, three goalies).

“Can’t live in the past, can’t live in the future, so tonight we were worried about this game,” U.S. captain Meghan Duggan said, according to the Canadian Press. “We weren’t looking ahead to February.”

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