Rene Fasel

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Four Olympic hockey options laid out by IIHF president

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IIHF president René Fasel said he told the International Olympic Committee there are four options for hockey’s participation at the 2022 Winter Olympics, according to TSN’s Gord Miller.

  1. Go back to NHL participation (as in 1998-2014)
  2. Use the 2018 model (participation from all major leagues except NHL)
  3. Use under-23 players (similar to Olympic men’s soccer)
  4. No Olympic hockey

It’s clear which option Fasel favors.

“Having the best on best should be our mission,” Fasel said in an Oilers TV interview last week.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has repeated since last fall that he doubts the league takes a midseason break for the 2022 Winter Games, even with a more favorable host market for hockey growth in China than the recent Winter Games in South Korea.

“I never say never, but I find it hard to envision a scenario where it makes sense, unless, possibly, if the Winter Games are back in North America where the time frame and the attention and the logistics, travel, are a lot different,” Bettman said in November.

The last time a Winter Olympic sport was cut from an Olympic program was in 1960, when Squaw Valley organizers decided against the cost of building a sliding track, meaning bobsled events were not held. The sport returned in 1964 and has been on the Olympic program ever since.

There’s still a long way to go. The decision on NHL participation in the last two Olympics — in for Sochi, out for PyeongChang — was not announced until less than a year before each Winter Games.

“It is too early to get into Beijing, but it remains our goal to bring back a best-on-best Olympic tournament,” Fasel said earlier last week, according to the Edmonton Sun.

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Pyeongchang urges NHL to reconsider its position on Olympics

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PARIS (AP) The president of the Pyeongchang Olympic organizing committee is still hoping for an NHL U-turn.

“I don’t think they made the final decision so far,” committee president Lee Hee-beom said Monday at a news conference. “(There is) still room to discuss and negotiate.”

Last month, the NHL announced that it will not stop its season to allow players to compete at the Feb. 9-25 Olympics for the first time in 20 years. And Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly reiterated the NHL’s stance last week, despite International Ice Hockey Federation President Rene Fasel saying that his organization was still hopeful of working out a solution to bring the sport’s biggest stars to Pyeongchang.

Lee met with Fasel in Paris on Monday morning to discuss the issue. Paris is co-hosting the hockey world championship with the German city of Cologne, with the quarterfinals later this week.

“I had a very useful breakfast meeting with Rene Fasel this morning and I also met many ice hockey leaders in Europe,” Lee said. “We totally agreed between IIHF and Pyeongchang organizing committee that we are in the same boat. We will cooperate with the IIHF to further develop the Olympic (hockey) venues.”

He said he hopes further negotiation with the NHL will prove fruitful.

“I’m ready to meet with their (the NHL) delegations wherever it is they say to do so,” Lee said. “Very recently I met their delegation in Pyeongchang, not only the athletes’ side, but also the labor union side. Not only in Pyeongchang, but also in New York. Nothing is concluded until the final conclusion is made.”

IOC President Thomas Bach is also lending his support.

“I have discussed with him over the phone last week. We are widely open to discuss this matter,” Lee said. “We are discussing not only with IIHF but also with the IOC in many channels.”

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IIHF president hopes NHL changes its mind over 2018 Olympics

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PARIS (AP) — The NHL still has a couple more months to reverse its decision and opt to participate in next year’s Olympics in South Korea.

International Ice Hockey Federation President Rene Fasel said Tuesday his organization was in contact with the National Hockey League Players’ Association two or three times per week, hoping to work out a solution that will bring the sport’s biggest stars to Pyeongchang.

“I would say the latest we can do is end of June, beginning of July, for calendars, schedules, arenas,” Fasel said at a news conference during the hockey worlds. “We will see.”

Fasel, who is Swiss, also said he plans to call NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, but he didn’t seem too enthusiastic about his chances.

“I have a very good relation with Gary. But what can I say? I have nothing to give him,” Fasel said. “I can say ‘Hello, how are you? Great playoffs.’ Just social talk. Maybe I come to New York, we have a steak and go back. This is the way it is.

“The puck is for sure on the stick of the NHL Players’ Association and we will see.”

Last month, the NHL announced that it will not stop its season to allow players to compete at the Feb. 9-25 Olympics for the first time in 20 years.

“I’m a very positive person so I never give up, and there is still some time where maybe we can convince Gary Bettman to change his opinion,” Fasel said.

The NHL has not decided whether to allow teams to make decisions on a case-by-case basis. It was not immediately clear how the United States, Canada and other countries will fill Olympic rosters, though national federations have already begun planning.

“We played before without the NHL, we will have anyway a great tournament. But it would be so much better with the best players in the world,” Fasel said. “The players want to go, so I really don’t understand.

“But if Gary decides not to go to the Olympics, the fans will not be happy, the players will not be happy, I hope (the) media won’t be happy. The whole world will not be happy.”

Skipping the Olympics in Pyeongchang would be a huge mistake, Fasel said, in terms of growing hockey in Asia.

“There is a unique opportunity for our sport to show up there, a unique opportunity for the NHL to be there,” said Fasel, who is also a long-standing IOC member. “We are in discussion with the IOC. We have internally our discussion and we try and make a snowball, a package that maybe we can go to Gary (with) and say ‘Listen, Gary: Yes or no?’

“There is nothing bigger and more important. We don’t have a better platform for our sport than the Olympic Winter Games. Three billion people watching.”

NHL stars like Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews and New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist have all spoken out strongly in favor of taking part.

The NHL’s stance, if unchanged, would put Russia in a dominant position.

Russia is home to the Kontinental Hockey League, widely regarded as the strongest outside North America. Taking a schedule break for the Olympics is easier for the KHL, which already shapes its season to accommodate the world championships and national-team warmups.

“What we will do for sure if the NHL isn’t coming is that we will work in China, in the KHL,” Fasel said. “That will give the space to the Russian and the non-Russian clubs to be present in Asia.”

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