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USA Hockey reaching out to NHL players who may retire about Olympics

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The U.S. Olympic men’s hockey team will include no active NHL players due to the league’s non-participation stance.

But recent NHL players — even retired ones — are very much in the early roster picture.

U.S. general manager Jim Johannson said he has talked to one player “that might retire” from the NHL before the upcoming season as he gathers a pool of Olympic hopefuls. Johannson hopes to talk to more NHL veterans once the players decide about their competitive futures.

“There are a few NHL players that we’re waiting to see what they’re waiting to do,” Johannson said Friday. “Without naming names, there are some guys that have a rich history in the NHL and with USA Hockey that we think could potentially really help this roster. For what I do, I always try to get as much quote-unquote weaponry to the coaches. Trust me, we’re going to dig over every stone to see what the options are and what the fit is.”

The U.S. coaching staff was named Friday, headed by 1988 Olympian Tony Granato with four-time Olympian Chris Chelios and three-time Olympian Scott Young among the assistants.

Johansson said a “long list” of potential players for the final 25-man roster must be submitted in September.

A U.S. team of primarily European-based players will take part in a tournament in November in Germany. The U.S. staff will also look at NCAA and AHL players ahead of naming the PyeongChang team.

Johansson said he has talked to at least 80 players who could potentially be in the pool.

“I’ve basically informed, especially NCAA guys, I just informed them where I thought things were going and said, hey if you’re around, we certainly want to get you in the pool and eligible,” he said. “Other than that, I’m giving them their time and letting them decide what’s right for their family and their career. Some of that they control. Some of it they don’t control. But, as we get more into August here, and we start to know a little bit more what they’re doing, I thought it was important that they have the time to decide that first and foremost. Secondly, I’m going to come in with the informative part of it. Here’s literally what has to happen if you do want to be eligible for this. Again, would we reach out to them [former NHL players]? Absolutely. And they’ll be part of our player pool and part of our discussions.”

Canada’s management has said it is considering the likes of Jarome Iginla and Shane Doan, two Olympians who are in their 40s and mulling NHL retirement.

Potential U.S. options don’t appear to include any players of Iginla and Doan’s star caliber. However, 2006 Olympians John-Michael Liles, a 36-year-old defenseman, and Brian Gionta, a 38-year-old forward, are two NHL veterans who played last season but are currently free agents.

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MORE: Canada could turn to past Olympians in PyeongChang

Beach volleyball player’s dog becomes social media sensation

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Norwegian beach volleyball player Mathias Berntsen‘s dog, Kiara, captivated social media this weekend.

A video of Kiara peppering with Berntsen and a pair across the net on a grass field spread from Berntsen’s Instagram across platforms. Kiara now has 12,000 Instagram followers, more than twice the total of Berntsen.

Berntsen, 24, is one half of Norway’s second-best beach volleyball team.

He and partner Hendrik Mol are ranked 45th in the world and well outside the Tokyo Olympic picture (24 teams go to the Games), but could get in the mix depending on how qualification is amended once sports resume.

Berntsen and his cousin Mol are part of a group called the Beach Volley Vikings. Mol’s younger brother, Anders, and family friend Christian Sorum are the world’s top-ranked team (profiled here).

MORE: Beach volleyball players fly to Australia, learn event is canceled

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FIFA rules on Olympic men’s soccer tournament age eligibility

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For the first time since 1988, some 24-year-olds will be eligible for the Olympic men’s soccer tournament without using an over-age exception.

FIFA announced Friday that it will use the same age eligibility criteria for the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 that it intended to use in 2020 — that players born on or after Jan. 1, 1997 are eligible, plus three over-age exceptions. FIFA chose not to move the birthdate deadline back a year after the Olympics were postponed by one year.

Olympic men’s soccer tournaments have been U-23 events — save those exceptions — since the 1992 Barcelona Games. In 1984 and 1988, restrictions kept European and South American players with World Cup experience ineligible. Before that, professionals weren’t allowed at all.

Fourteen of the 16 men’s soccer teams already qualified for the Games using players from under-23 national teams. The last two spots are to be filled by CONCACAF nations, potentially the U.S. qualifying a men’s team for the first time since 2008.

The U.S.’ biggest star, Christian Pulisic, and French superstar Kylian Mbappe were both born in 1998 and thus would have been under the age limit even if FIFA moved the deadline to Jan. 1, 1998.

Perhaps the most high-profile player affected by FIFA’s decision is Brazilian forward Gabriel Jesus. The Manchester City star was born April 3, 1997, and thus would have become an over-age exception if FIFA pushed the birthdate rule back a year.

Instead, Brazil could name him to the Olympic team and still keep all of its over-age exceptions.

However, players need permission from their professional club teams to play in the Olympics, often limiting the availability of stars.

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