Report: NHL edging closer to deal with IOC

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Most assumed we would have a deal in place for the NHL players to compete in Sochi by the end of the World Hockey Championships, which came and went last month. Now it’s at the end of the NHL season, which we’re mere days away from. And while officials are saying that things are getting closer and closer, nothing is signed, making this report the exact same as all of these!

“Hopefully within the next couple of weeks we’ll have a formal agreement done,” Hockey Canada President Bob Nicholson told Sportsnet.ca.

“We certainly have our sights that the NHL players will be there, but we still have to get that done with the NHL and the NHL Players’ Association. I can tell you that in all the meetings I’ve been in with those parties, the IIHF, the IOC – everyone wants it. Now we’re just trying to cross all the t’s and dot the i’s.”

If that’s true, that would be a change of heart for NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, who said after Vancouver Games that he wasn’t a fan of his players participating because it costs the league money and disrupts the season. Bettman also admitted last week that time is running out to get a deal done, because the NHL needs time to prepare for a new season, including making the schedule, which can’t be done until they decide if the league will be taking a two-week hiatus for the Olympics or not.

“Once we get the Olympics figured out we will start focusing on a long term, Olympic, World Cup, world championship international competition calendar,” Bettman said ahead of the Stanley Cup Finals. “These are all things we are intrigued by and think are great opportunities for hockey worldwide.”

From what we can tell, the sticking point still remains that the NHL is looking to lock up media rights, travel and hospitality for NHL players, owners, officials, and families, and a decision on which party will pay to insure the more than $3 billion in players contracts at the Olympics.

This would be the fifth straight Olympics with NHL players, dating back to the 1998 Nagano Games when future hall-of-famer Dominik Hašek tended goal for the champs from the Czech Republic.

Kendall Gretsch wins six gold medals at Para Nordic Ski Worlds

Kendall Gretsch
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Kendall Gretsch, who won Paralympic titles at the last Summer and Winter Games, added another six gold medals at the World Para Nordic Skiing Championships in Sweden last week.

Gretsch, 30, earned seven total medals in seven days between biathlon and cross-country skiing.

Gretsch won gold medals in three different sports across the last three Paralympics: biathlon and cross-country skiing in 2018 (two years after taking up the sports), triathlon in 2021 and biathlon in 2022.

She plans to shift her focus back to triathlon after this winter for 2024 Paris Games qualification.

Gretsch, born with spina bifida, was the 2014 USA Triathlon Female Para Triathlete of the Year. Though triathlon was added to the Paralympics for the 2016 Rio Games, her classification was not added until Tokyo.

Also at last week’s worlds, six-time Paralympian Aaron Pike earned his first Paralympic or world championships gold medal in his decade-plus career, winning a 12.5km biathlon event.

Oksana Masters, who won seven medals in seven events at last year’s Paralympics to break the career U.S. Winter Paralympics medals record, missed worlds due to hand surgery.

The U.S. also picked up five medals at last week’s World Para Alpine Skiing Championships in Spain — three silvers for five-time Paralympian Laurie Stephens and two bronzes for 17-year-old Saylor O’Brien.

Stephens now has 18 career medals from world championships, plus seven at the Paralympics.

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World champion skier Kyle Smaine dies in avalanche at age 31

Kyle Smaine
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Kyle Smaine, a retired world champion halfpipe skier, died in an avalanche in Japan on Sunday, according to NBC News, citing Smaine’s father. He was 31.

Smaine, a 2015 World champion in ski halfpipe, had been doing ski filming in Japan, sharing videos on his Instagram account over the past week.

The native of South Lake Tahoe, California, finished ninth in ski halfpipe at the 2016 Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado.

In 2018, Smaine won the fifth and final U.S. Olympic qualifying series event in ski halfpipe but did not make the four-man team for PyeongChang. His last sanctioned international competition was in February 2018.

Late Sunday, two-time Olympic champion David Wise won the X Games men’s ski halfpipe and dedicated it to Smaine.

“We all did this for Kyle tonight,” Wise said on the broadcast. “It’s a little bit of an emotional day for us. We lost a friend.”