Gary Bettman: Olympic ‘fatigue’ may be setting in for NHL

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PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman says there’s significant opposition among team owners to continuing participation in the Winter Olympics, and the league is running out of time on negotiations to take part in the 2018 Games.

Following a meeting of the league’s Board of Governors on Thursday, Bettman said no decision was made regarding Olympics participation in 2018 in South Korea.

“I think it’s fair to say that there is some strong negative sentiment in the room,” Bettman said. “But nothing was decided today.”

NHL players have competed in the past five Winter Olympics dating to 1998 and want to continue taking part, but owners are concerned about the midseason interruption and injury risk.

“There are a lot of owners, clubs, over the years that have been very concerned about what Olympic participation does to the season, what it does to the players in terms of injuries, not just to those that go, but having a compressed schedule can make the players more tired, more wear and tear, and the potential for injury is greater,” Bettman said, according to NHL.com. “I think after doing five of these, I don’t know, fatigue might be a word?”

Bettman said his recent proposal to the NHL Players’ Association regarding an extension of the collective bargaining agreement in return for Olympic participation was part of a larger discussion about hockey’s international calendar.

“That discussion morphed into, ‘Maybe we should be talking about a long-term international schedule with predictability,'” Bettman said. “If you look at the calendar and you play it out in the logical sequences of the way these events get played, we said if you look at the calendar and get rid of the (CBA) reopeners and you extend by three years, that gets you two Olympics, two World Cups and two Ryder Cups.”

Such an agreement would ensure nine years of labor peace, but players rejected the proposal.

Bettman has said a decision regarding the Olympics needs to be made by early January, giving the league time to create its 2017-18 schedule with or without a two-plus week break for the Olympics.

The Board of Governors meetings conclude Friday.

MORE: 2018 Olympic men’s hockey groups set

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

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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.”