NHL hockey is back, but whether or not the pros will be in Sochi next winter is still up in the air. The players – particularly Russian stars Evgeni Malkin and Alex Ovechkin – want to play, but league commissioner Gary Bettman thinks it’s a disruptive waste of time, money, and resources.
Despite a 113-day lockout of more marathon sessions than you can count, the Olympics weren’t discussed. So now it’s up to IIHF President and IOC member Rene Fasel to come to the table and work out a deal to which everyone can agree.
“Once the CBA is ratified and there has been some cooling-down period, we will sit together with the IOC, the NHL, and NHLPA to find solutions how to make sure that Sochi 2014 becomes the fifth consecutive best-on-best Olympic event,” Fassel told the G&M.
“As I have always pointed [out] whenever asked questions about NHL players’ participation, our doors are always open and I am confident that we will find ways — like we did in Nagano, Salt Lake City, Turin and Vancouver — to stage this event on the biggest sporting stage there is.”
Which is all well and good from a PR standpoint, but the Olympics are thirteen months away.
Apparently the NHL is looking to profit from the discussions with the IIHF, and will request everything from ticket access and better hotels, to sponsor recognition, and a loosening of the strict IOC video and media guidelines. And unlike the recent lockout discussions, the league seems to be holding most of the cards.
Negotiations should start at some point within the next few weeks. Until then: hockey!