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PyeongChang 2018 still hopes for NHL players despite no Olympic break

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PyeongChang 2018 president Lee Hee-Beom is not giving up on NHL participation at the Olympics, even after the league announced a schedule with no Olympic break on Thursday.

“I think the NHL is trying to take an upper hand in the negotiation,” Lee said, according to Yonhap News Agency, adding that he hoped to discuss the matter with IOC President Thomas Bach in person next Thursday. “It’s premature to say definitively that the NHL will not participate.”

The NHL schedule released Thursday includes games on every day of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. That cements the league’s stance since April that it will end a streak of participating in five straight Olympics dating to 1998.

“No talks with any entities regarding NHL player participation in the 2018 Olympics,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said, according to Russian news agency TASS on Friday. “The matter is formally closed.”

In May, the IIHF said it was “exploring options” with the NHL Players’ Association and the IOC and still “keeping the door open” for NHL participation at the 2018 Olympics.

IIHF president Rene Fasel said he planned to call NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and hoped there was more time to convince Bettman to change the NHL’s opinion on Olympic participation.

Bettman said on May 29 that the deadline had passed.

The NHL previously announced an All-Star weekend in late January, less than two weeks before the Winter Games. It did not hold All-Star games in 2006, 2010 and 2014 due to the Olympics, but did have All-Star games in 1998 and 2002, the first two Olympics with NHL participation.

The biggest complication in the NHL not participating in the 2018 Winter Games is the situation of Alex Ovechkin, who has said he plans to leave the Washington Capitals to play for Russia regardless.

Capitals owner Ted Leonsis supported Ovechkin last year but backed off a bit in April, according to Sports Business Daily.

“We have an expectation that none of our players are going [to the Olympics], but I don’t want to get involved in the gymnastics involved in what that means,” Bettman said May 29. “There’s no reason to pick that fight right now.”

Men’s hockey during the Olympics runs Feb. 14-25. The Capitals play six times during that span.

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MORE: 2018 Olympic hockey groups set

Last Soviet goalie to win Olympic gold, first to play in NHL, dies at 58

Sergey Mylnikov
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Sergey Mylnikov, the goalie for the last Soviet Olympic hockey team and the first Russian goalie to play in the NHL, died at age 58, according to Russia’s hockey federation.

Mylnikov played every minute for the Soviets at the 1988 Calgary Games, reportedly in part due to Evgeny Belosheiken‘s knee injury.

He backstopped them to the Olympic title, despite giving up five goals to the U.S. in group play and losing the last game of the medal round to Finland (the Soviets had already clinched gold two days earlier).

It marked the USSR’s third Olympic defeat spanning seven Olympics from 1964 through 1988, ending a 15-game winning streak dating to the Miracle on Ice.

Mylnikov and Belosheiken, who was eight years younger, had traded starts in meaningful games the years prior, after the legendary Vladislav Tretiak retired following the 1984 Olympics.

Mylnikov was then drafted by the Quebec Nordiques before the 1989-90 season, playing in 10 games with a 1-7-2 record and a 4.96 goals-against average for a last-place team.

He reported to preseason camp overweight but refused a demotion to an American Hockey League affiliate, according to the Canadian Press.

“My record stands on its own,” Mylnikov said, according to the report. “I don’t have to prove anything to anyone.”

The fall of the Soviet Union led to a Unified Team competing at the 1992 Winter Games in Albertville and winning gold. Russia competed alone beginning in 1994 and hasn’t won an Olympic hockey title.

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MORE: NHL boss asked point-blank: ‘Is the 2018 Olympics dead?’

Henrik Lundqvist joins Swedish throng in song at world title celebration

Henrik Lundqvist
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Singing Queen’s “We are the Champions,” goalie Henrik Lundqvist joined thousands of his closest Swedish friends to celebrate their world hockey title in a central Stockholm square Monday afternoon.

The event at Sergel Square attracted the country’s prime minister (who was partially booed), Swedish royals and a flyover by the Swedish Air Force, according to German press agency DPA. Even the pregnant 2015 Miss Sweden found a way to honor the team.

Sweden won its 10th world title Sunday, ousting two-time defending champion Canada 2-1 in a shootout and at least somewhat avenging its Sochi Olympic final defeat.

The Swedish roster included NHL players who, as of now, won’t be participating in the PyeongChang Winter Games.

Such as Washington Capitals forward Nicklas Backstrom, who scored one of Sweden’s two shootout goals, three years after being suspended from the Olympic final for testing positive for pseudoephedrine.

And Lundqvist, who flew to the worlds co-hosted by France and Germany to join the team mid-tournament after his New York Rangers were eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Lundqvist stopped all four Canadian shots in the shootout, capping an exceptional stint with the team. He arrived to play the last five games and tallied a 1.31 goals-against average and .946 save percentage, the best among all goalies who played in more than two games at the tournament.

Lundqvist, 35, joined Sweden at worlds for the first time since 2008 after his identical twin brother, Joel, reached out, according to The New York Times. Joel, a former NHL forward, is the Swedish team captain but didn’t make the Olympics in 2006, 2010 or 2014, like Henrik did (winning gold in 2006).

The Lundqvist brothers had not played on the same team in 12 years. With Joel not playing in the NHL, it might be his turn to suit up at the Olympics next year, while Henrik stays in the U.S.

“Sitting in New York, 10 days ago or so, this is what I pictured myself, to be here with my brother, to hold this trophy,” Lundqvist said Sunday.

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MORE: List of NHL stars’ stances on trying to play at 2018 Olympics

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