Bob McKenzie: No NHL Olympic decision expected soon

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The NHL probably won’t decide for at least another month whether it will participate in the PyeongChang Olympics, hockey insider Bob McKenzie said on NBCSN on Wednesday night.

“The puck is now on the stick of the National Hockey League and the NHLPA,” McKenzie said. “Maybe the National Hockey League is just sitting back, waiting for the National Hockey League Players’ Association to provide a concession or an inducement or something that would change the owners’ mind about going to PyeongChang.”

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has said league owners are feeling “fatigue” after going to the last five Olympics. They are worried about another midseason interruption and potential injury risk.

On Monday, the IIHF council held a conference call with representatives from all 12 teams qualified for the Olympics.

“The majority of this group felt that the NHL will likely need to decide during the month of March because of their scheduling needs for next season,” IIHF president Rene Fasel said on the IIHF website. “However, we do not feel at this time that it would be constructive to set a hard deadline for the NHL and NHLPA to confirm their participation.”

Fasel said that if the NHL does not participate, the Olympic men’s hockey format would likely not change to an under-23 tournament similar to that of Olympic soccer.

“Olympic ice hockey has a wonderful and exciting history that goes further back than just Nagano [1998],” the first Olympics with NHL players, Fasel said. “Look at the Swedes in Lillehammer [1994], the Soviets in Cortina d’Ampezzo [1956], and the Americans in Lake Placid [1980] … these are just some of the great moments we have witnessed playing under the rings.

“If we do not have the NHL in PyeongChang, I have zero doubt that the Olympic men’s tournament will still be as thrilling and competitive as any we have seen.”

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