NHL players expected in Sochi

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The NHL collective bargaining talks between owners and players resume Friday (somehow devoid of financial details), but International Ice Hockey Federation president Rene Fasel said he definitely expects the pros to show up in Sochi in 16 months.

“We’ve prepared everything with the idea that NHL players will be there,” Fasel told the AP in Tokyo after being reelected to his post. “We’ve decided about the format and expect them to be there.”

Fasel says he’s willing to shift the tournament start date from Tuesday to Wednesday to accommodate the players’ travel schedule, but neither they, nor the NHL and commissioner Gary Bettman have confidently said whether they’re willing to take two weeks out of their schedule to play in the Olympics.

Of course two-time league MVP Alex Ovechkin, a Russian native, says he’ll play at his hometown Games no matter what the NHL decides during the ongoing talks, and we’re sure stars like countryman Evgeni Malkin will follow, which may cause a divide among players.

Fasel seems unconcerned, though, adding that whatever the outcome, “we’ll play the tournament anyway.”