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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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Alysia Montano announces pregnancy with clever video, no racing plans

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U.S. Olympic 800m runner Alysia Montaño is due in November with her second child, but this time she has no current plan to race at the U.S. Championships while pregnant.

Montaño’s husband and manager, Louis, said Wednesday that she has no races on her calendar (nationals are in late June) but hopes to continue her fitness during pregnancy. She may do a couple of 5Ks this summer.

Earlier Wednesday, the family announced the pregnancy in a clever video.

The video included the couple’s first child, Linnea, was born in August 2014, two months after Montaño made worldwide headlines for racing while eight months pregnant at nationals.

Montaño, 31, last raced at the Millrose Games on Feb. 11 in her first meet since falling in the Olympic Trials 800m final on July 4.

Montaño is set to be awarded her first two world outdoor championships medals, four and six years after she ran those races, due to a former Russian rival’s doping ban.

MORE: Montaño finds little joy after Russian stripped of medals

Sweden drops 2026 Winter Olympic bid

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The city of Stockholm says it won’t bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics.

Karin Wanngard, the city official in charge of finances, says the reason is because the International Olympic Committee will not be able to report how big the financial contribution to the host city will be.

She says the figures “will arrive at the earliest in November.”

This means that time will be too short to get enough analysis for the issues raised by several actors,” said the Swedish lawmaker, whose Social Democratic Party had been supportive of hosting the event.

“We Social Democrats have always thought that the Olympic Games are important for Stockholm’s growth and development,” Wanngard said in a statement, adding there was little backing for the event. “Unfortunately, we are alone to have this position about the Olympic Games.”

Swedish Sports Confederation chairman Bjorn Eriksson said he and his organization “fully respect the decision as we also believe in a realistic budget and a sustainable economy.”

Sports Minister Gabriel Wikstrom also supported the decision, adding that the Social Democratic-led government was “ready to handle requests for financial guarantees.”

“We have also been clear that it is Stockholm’s city that must make its decision first,” he told Sweden news agency TT.

The news comes six days after the Swedish Olympic Committee named a CEO for the 2026 bid.

In January, the committee said that Stockholm staging the 2026 Winter Olympics was “possible and desirable” and that a formal bid was expected in March 2018.

In 2015, Stockholm pulled out of the race for the 2022 Winter Games after Swedish politicians refused to give financial backing. Swedish politicians were uncomfortable because of concerns over costs, the environment, post-Games use of venues, the environment and other issues.

The early 2026 bid plan called for 80 percent of the events in Stockholm, while most of the Alpine competitions would be in the northern resort of Are, more than 600 kilometers (400 miles) from the capital. A few skiing events would be in Falun, 215 kilometers (130 miles) northwest from there.

The 2026 Winter Olympics have one bidder — Sion, Switzerland.

Cities in Austria, Canada, Japan and have also discussed potential 2026 bids, as has Lillehammer, Norway, the 1994 Winter Olympic host. The U.S. is not expected to bid for the 2026 Winter Games.

The next two Winter Olympics will be in East Asia in PyeongChang in 2018 and Beijing in 2022, giving a European or North American city a greater opening to be the 2026 host.

The 2026 Olympic host city is expected to be chosen from an International Olympic Committee members vote in 2019.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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