Ice hockey world body still works for Olympic deal with NHL


Home to the world's best ice hockey players, the NHL said on Monday that it's not been able to solve the problem of halting its league mid-season to accomodate the Olympics.

The Pyeongchange Games will take place in South Korea from February 9-25 next year.

"It's my country", Ovechkin said in Toronto. "A huge opportunity to market the game at the biggest stage is wasted", he said on Twitter.

Commissioner Gary Bettman and Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly informed the NHL Players' Association that the matter was "officially closed" after weeks of speculation. In other words, they aren't confident enough to just own the fact that the owners didn't want the players they are paying to have either the time off or the injury risk.

Most were just aghast at the NHL's decision.

"They crushed a dream", Anton Stralman, the Tampa Bay Lightning defenceman, told reporters in Boston.

"I think the players know it's very important for us to represent our countries", the Washington Capitals star said last month.

"It's so idiotic. Whoever did this has obviously no idea what they are doing".

Is the NHL's decision final?

But if the league holds true to that stance, would Ovechkin be alone in jumping ship from the Capitals to represent Russian Federation?

The NHL has not decided whether to allow teams to make decisions on a case-by-case basis about players participating in the 2018 Olympics. Somebody going to tell me I don't go. "We will always try to do the best for ice hockey - and this is put the best players on the ice and let them play, because they want it". Russia's Alex Ovechkin, one of hockey's biggest stars, continues to insist that he will play in Pyeongchang regardless of the NHL's decision. What would that rule look like and how would teammates react if the likes of Ovechkin and Kuznetsov bolted is another matter. Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price, who played in Sochi under Babcock, called it "very disappointing" and said it was short-changing younger players who hadn't got to experience it before.

Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, twice a gold medal victor with Team Canada, accused the National Hockey League of using the Olympics as leverage for future collective bargaining agreement negotiations.

NBC Sports, which televises both the Olympics and the NHL in the USA, said it was "confident that hockey fans and Olympic viewers will tune in to watch the unique style of play that occurs at the Olympic Winter Games when athletes are competing for their country".

Mike Babcock guided Canada to its last two Olympic gold medals and has been an outspoken proponent for the National Hockey League attending again.

For many it was the patriotic opportunity on the grandest worldwide stage that was too alluring to pass up.

The world hockey body's secretary general, Horst Lichtner, was briefing Winter Games federations on Tuesday in a previously scheduled meeting at an Olympic sports conference in Aarhus, Denmark.

In passive-aggressive fashion, the densely worded and obviously over-lawyered remarks seemed to blame the IOC, NHLPA and IIHF for their decision, alleging that the other entities hadn't engaged in sufficiently substantive negotiations that could have incentivized the league to disrupt its schedule. While the 2022 Beijing Games are seen as more appealing in that sense, it's worth remembering South Korea has a population of more than 50 million and is just one hour ahead of China's capital.

The NHL announced on Monday there would be no break during the 2017-18 campaign to accommodate for the Games in Pyeongchang. It remains hard to see the league ultimately spurning that opportunity, though what changes the equation is still a mystery.

"For some reason for me I feel like it's going to happen", American winger and Sochi shootout star T.J. Oshie said. "It's going to come down to the very last minute for me to when I really believe we're not going to go".