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.”

MORE: Toews says hockey ‘misrepresented’ if no NHL at Olympics

Erin Hamlin to run New York City Marathon

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Erin Hamlin, the first U.S. Olympic singles luge medalist and Team USA flag bearer at the PyeongChang Olympic Opening Ceremony, will run the New York City Marathon on Nov. 4.

Hamlin, a 2014 Olympic bronze medalist who retired after her fourth Olympics in PyeongChang at age 31, is running to fundraise for the Women’s Sports Foundation. So is Marlen Esparza, who in 2012 became the first U.S. Olympic women’s boxing medalist (flyweight bronze).

Hamlin has no marathon experience, according to the Women’s Sports Foundation.

“Being challenged in sport is something I am very familiar with,” Hamlin said in a mass email Wednesday, according to TeamUSA.org. “Long distance running is something I most certainly am not!! It will be difficult, mentally and physically daunting, but a way to test my abilities in a sport so far out of my comfort zone.”

Many Olympians in non-running sports have raced the New York City Marathon.

Bill Demong, the 2010 U.S. Olympic Closing Ceremony flag bearer and only U.S. Olympic Nordic combined champion, ran the 2014 NYC Marathon in 2:33:05, crushing eight-time Olympic medalist Apolo Ohno‘s 3:25:14 from 2011.

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MORE: Top luge moments from PyeongChang Olympics

Softball set to return to Olympics as first event on Tokyo 2020 schedule

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Softball, returning to the Olympics after a 12-year absence, is scheduled to kick off the 2020 Tokyo Games, two days before the Opening Ceremony.

The preliminary master schedule for the Tokyo Olympics was published Wednesday, with the first softball game scheduled for 10 a.m. local time on the Wednesday before the Opening Ceremony.

The first game is scheduled to be held in Fukushima, the site of 2011 nuclear plant meltdowns caused by an earthquake and tsunami 155 miles north of Tokyo. The International Olympic Committee and Tokyo organizers have been eager to use the Games as a symbol of recovery from the 2011 disaster

Traditionally, soccer has been the first sport to have action at a Summer Olympics, one or two days before the Opening Ceremony. While soccer is again scheduled to have matches that same Wednesday, they start later than 10 a.m.

The Tokyo 2020 schedule is subject to change and certainly not a final version — swimming, diving and synchronized swimming schedules are still to be determined, but those sports do not typically start before the Opening Ceremony.

Softball was added in 1991 to the Olympic program to debut at the 1996 Atlanta Games. The U.S. won the first three gold medals before softball and baseball were narrowly voted off the Olympic program in 2005/06 (a 52-52 IOC vote for softball, with a majority needed to stay in the Olympics), with the 2008 Beijing Games being the last edition. Japan won the last Olympic softball gold medal 10 years ago.

Then on Aug. 3, 2016, baseball and softball were among five sports added for the 2020 Tokyo Games only, at the request of Tokyo Olympic organizers. Baseball and softball are not guaranteed to remain on the Olympic program in Paris in 2024.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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