IIHF president René Fasel is hopeful NHL players will be in Sochi, Russia, for the 2014 Winter Olympics. However, he knows it’s no sure thing given the league’s current labor dispute.
“After I was elected in 1994, we have had four consecutive best-on-best Olympics,” Fasel said Tuesday in Tokyo at the 135th IIHF Congress. “I stay optimistic about Sochi 2014, but as we know the NHL and their players’ association are in negotiations and before they have reached a new bargaining agreement we will not be able to say much about their participation. But we know that the players want to play.”
NHL owners have argued that participation in the Olympics puts their players at risk of injury and disrupts the season.
There’s also the matter of the 2014 Games being held outside North America.
“In some places, the benefits are greater for the Olympic participation than others. When you’re in Vancouver or Salt Lake City and you’re in North American time zones and you’re getting that type of coverage, then you are getting coverage that may be commensurate with shutting down,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in 2010.
It’s hard to imagine the NHL barring its players from going to Sochi, particularly the Russian stars that are so desperate to redeem themselves after a poor 2010 showing.
Then again, the two sides aren’t getting along so well these days, if you haven’t heard.