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IIHF president: We found money to get NHL players to Olympics

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IIHF president Rene Fasel says one of the keys to NHL participation in the 2018 Olympics — covering the travel costs for players — is no longer an issue.

“At the end I think we can balance the numbers and the figures,” Fasel told media Monday, according to ProHockeyTalk audio. “It’s not any more a financial issue.”

Still, Fasel repeated that he believes it’s a 50-50 shot that the NHL takes its usual break and sends players to the Olympics, as it has done at the last five Winter Games. The NHL, which didn’t decide on 2014 Olympic participation until July 2013, is expected to decide by January on Pyeongchang 2018.

The NHL is unhappy that the International Olympic Committee is not willing to pay some of the travel costs for NHL players to play at the Winter Games, as it has at previous Olympics. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in May that the travel costs issue would have “significant impact” on the NHL’s decision.

Fasel said the IIHF and the IOC split travel costs for the Sochi Olympics.

The IIHF, the NHL as well as representatives from USA Hockey and Hockey Canada are meeting in New York on Wednesday as the NHL continues to deliberate.

Fasel said he’s going into Wednesday’s meeting with a goal “to get the players and the NHL to decide to go to Korea.”

“We found, more or less, the money to finance it, the transportation and insurance, and we will see,” Fasel said on TSN radio, adding to CBC, “We have the money to pay the transportation and the insurance cost, so I really hope that we can really focus on the different, other issues.”

Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin has repeated he plans to play in the 2018 Olympics regardless of if he has the NHL’s blessing. Capitals owner Ted Leonsis has supported Ovechkin’s stance.

Could other players follow Ovechkin’s lead?

“Could be,” Fasel said. “Knowing Alexander, Ovi is the kind of person, and I would not be surprised that the owner would let him go, but I don’t think that the league would be happy.”

MORE: 2018 Olympic men’s hockey groups set

Cyclist in induced coma after Tour of Poland crash

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Dutch cyclist Fabio Jakobsen was put into an induced coma Wednesday after suffering injuries in a crash on the final stretch of the Tour of Poland, organizers said.

A massive crash at the finish of the first stage resulted in Dylan Groenewegen‘s disqualification from the race.

Leading a bunch sprint, Groenewegen veered toward the right barrier, pinching countryman Jakobsen, who barreled into the barrier meters from the finish line.

Jakobsen went head over heels, his bike went airborne and the barriers exploded onto the road, causing more cyclists to crash.

Jakobsen was airlifted to a hospital in serious condition and was put into an induced coma, the Tour de Pologne press office said.

Groenewegen crossed the finish line first but was disqualified, giving Jakobsen the stage win, according to the stage race website.

Groenewegen, a 27-year-old Jumbo-Visma rider, owns four Tour de France stage wins among the last three years.

The International Cycling Union (UCI) “strongly condemned” Groenewegen’s “dangerous” and “unacceptable” behavior. It referred Groenewegen’s actions to a disciplinary commission for possible sanctions.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Figure skating Grand Prix Series will be held as ‘domestic’ competitions

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Figure skating’s Grand Prix Series will go ahead as scheduled this fall, with modifications due to the coronavirus pandemic, the International Skating Union decided Monday.

Each of the series’ six tops around the globe will be “a domestic run event,” limited to skaters of the event’s host country, who regularly train in the host country and from a respective geographical area. The number of disciplines and skaters at each event are to be worked out.

The Grand Prix Series, held annually since 1995, is a six-event fall season, qualifying the top six skaters and teams per discipline to December’s Grand Prix Final. The annual stops are in the U.S., Canada, China, France, Russia and Japan, leading up to the Final, which is held at a different site each year.

The Final is the second-biggest annual competition after the world championships, which are typically in late March. The Final is still scheduled for Beijing, though whether or when it can be held will be discussed.

The series begins in late October with Skate America, which debuted in 1979 and has been held every year since 1988 as the biggest annual international competition in the U.S. Skate America’s site is Las Vegas, just as it was in 2019.

Skaters typically compete twice on the Grand Prix Series (three times if they qualify for the Final). ISU vice president Alexander Lakernik said skaters will be limited to one start in the six-event series before the Final, according to a Russian media quote confirmed by Phil Hersh.

The ISU has not confirmed or denied Lakernik’s assertion.

Most, if not all, top-level U.S. skaters train in the U.S. or Canada. That makes the first two Grand Prix stops — Skate America and Skate Canada — likely destinations. Grand Prix assignments have not been published.

“I appreciate the ISU is open to adapting competitive formats and is working to give athletes opportunities to compete,” Evan Bates, a U.S. ice dance champion with Madison Chock who trains in Montreal, wrote in a text message to Hersh. “This announcement gives reassurance that the ISU is doing their best to ensure a season will still take place. Of course, it’s hard to predict what will happen, and we’re not sure about what country we would compete in. It would probably depend on what the quarantine rules are at that time.”

The January 2021 U.S. Championships are scheduled for San Jose, Calif. The March 2021 World Championships are set for Stockholm.

In July, the ISU canceled the Junior Grand Prix Series for skaters mostly ages 13 to 18, including two-time U.S. champion Alysa Liu, who cannot enter the senior Grand Prix until 2021.

Other early season senior international competitions scheduled for September were also canceled or postponed.

U.S. Figure Skating said in a statement that it will have more details on the Grand Prix Series in the coming weeks after collaborating with an ISU-appointed group.

“This is a great example of the figure skating community coming together to ensure that the world’s premier figure skating series will continue during these challenging times,” the statement read. “Figure skaters want to compete and figure skating fans from all around the world want to see their favorite athletes skate, and this format will ensure just that.”

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