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IIHF backs Russia’s participation in Pyeongchang Olympics

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The International Ice Hockey Federation doesn’t want to see hockey suffer at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.

With the International Olympic Committee set to rule on whether Russia can compete at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games next week, the IIHF threw its support behind Russia’s “clean” athletes on Tuesday.

The IIHF released a statement on the matter on Tuesday, stating that they “oppose” the use of collective punishment in what they called a “unanimous opinion.”

The IOC will rule on the matter on Dec. 5.

The statement, which can be read in full below, said that “punitive measures” the IOC is seeking against Russia would put the “health of ice hockey at risk.”

The IIHF Council has reached a unanimous opinion that all clean athletes, including those from Russia, must be permitted to represent their country in the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang.

We oppose the use of collective punishment in the case of Russian athletes. Although we recognize the need to confront doping in sport, Olympic participation should not be used to sanction the many for the actions of the few. In addition, the extent to which the IOC is seeking punitive measures in the case of Russia is putting the health of ice hockey at risk.

Russia’s role in the growth and development of ice hockey cannot be understated. This country forms a pillar on which our sport’s legacy rests upon.

To preserve the integrity of the Olympic ice hockey tournaments, the IIHF in full cooperation with the Russian Ice Hockey Federation and the Kontinental Hockey League initiated a highly structured testing program for the KHL, MHL, and WHL, which went into operation in December 2016 and up to the present has tested nearly 400 Russian players.

To this effect, the IIHF Council reiterates its position that clean athletes from all qualified Federations should be permitted to go to the 2018 Olympic Winter Games and represent their countries.

“We wanted to outline our position clearly to the IOC, that we are against a collective punishment approach that would unfairly punish many Russian athletes that had nothing to do with doping,” said IIHF President René Fasel in a release.

The potential punishment that could be levied against Russia stems from the Sochi Olympics in 2014.

The World Anti-Doping Agency claims Russia’s athletes were involved in a state-backed doping program to help boost their medal count at their chances of success at their home Games.

Last week, Hockey Canada, along with the hockey federations in Sweden, Finland and the Czech Republic sent a letter to the Kontinental Hockey League, encouraging the league not to withhold its players from the games in protest for the potential sanctions of Russia’s Pyeongchang participation.

The move by the KHL would have a widespread effect on the composition of hockey teams heading to the Games. The CBC reported last week that “sixteen members of Canada’s 25-man-roster at the recent Karjala Cup in Finland play in the KHL, including goalie Ben Scrivens and forwards Wojtek Wolski and Teddy Purcell.”

Fasel said the KHL is obliged to release any players of any nationality.

NHL players will not be permitted to play in the Olympics, which run from Feb. 9 to Feb. 26.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Jarome Iginla could suit up for Canada again (Video)

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Unrestricted free agent Jarome Iginla could once again don a Team Canada jersey.

The Hockey Night panel discussed Iginla’s return to the ice on Saturday on Hockey Night in Canada. Iginla recently had a minor operation on his hip. He played 80 games last season split between the Colorado Avalanche and the Los Angeles Kings.

“He had conversations with Team Canada this week,” Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman said during Saturday’s broadcast. “He’s going to begin skating in about a week or two and I think Team Canada has re-extended the invitation (to play in the Spengler Cup). If he wants to play in the Spengler Cup before the Olympics, there will be a spot for him.”

The Spengler Cup runs from Dec. 26 to Dec. 31 in Davos, Switzerland.

Hockey Canada’s president and CEO Tom Renny told Sportsnet at the beginning of November that Iginla needs to play hockey to be considered for the Olympic team that will head to South Korea early next year.

It was reported in September that Iginla was being ‘selective’ with where he wanted to sign as a free agent, but teams were being just as selective when it came to Iginla, who had 14 goals and 27 points in 80 games last season.

Earlier this month, Calgary Flames president of hockey operations Brian Burke said the Flames kicked the tires regarding bringing Iginla. 40, back to the town where played for 17 years.

If Iginla signed with an NHL team between now and the start of the Olympics, he would be ineligible to play for Canada.

Iginla is a future NHL Hall of Famer, with 625 goals and 1,300 points in 1,554 career games. He has won gold twice with Canada at the Olympics, in 2002 in Salt Lake City and again in Vancouver in 2010, but has never hoisted the Stanley Cup.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Report: Eichel invited to join Team USA at Worlds

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Jack Eichel and Jimmy Vesey are hoping to join Team USA at next month’s World Hockey Championship in the Czech Republic.

Eichel is of course expected to be one of the top two picks at June’s NHL Draft. The 2015 Hobey Baker winner led Boston University to the final of the frozen four where they fell 4-3 to Providence on Saturday.

Vesey, a third-round pick of the Nashville Predators (66th overall in 2012), just completed his third year at Harvard.

Meanwhile, TSN’s Ryan Rishaug reports Tyler Ennis and Cody Eakin are both headed overseas to represent Canada at the tournament.

Ennis has represented Canada internationally at the Under-20 tournament while it’ll be Eakin’s first time playing for Team Canada.

Rishaug also reports Ryan Johansen, Logan Couture and Jamie Benn have declined invites from Hockey Canada.

PHT Morning Skate: Wolski shows off nice hands in shootout goal

PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Wojtek Wolsk, who now plays for Torpedo Nizhny Novgoro in the KHL, showed off his soft hands during the shooutout in a recent game against HC Dynamo Moscow.

Editor’s Note: Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $20,000 Fantasy Hockey league for Monday’s NHL games. It’s just $2 to join and first prize is $2,000. Starts Monday at 7pm ET. Here’s the FanDuel link.

NHL Winter Classic: Setting up rinks a shared passion for father and son (The Washington Post)

Kings’ defenseman Alec Martinez admits contract talks are in the back of his mind (L.A. Kings Insider)

Did the Devils contact Adam Oates without permission? NHL and Capitals consider case closed (The Bergen Record)

Sharks’ Nieto set for return after missing 9 games (CSN Bay Area)

Travis Green and Mike Stothers named coaches for AHL All-Star Classic (The AHL)

Curtis Lazar and Connor McDavid: Junior hockey’s odd couple (Toronto Star)

What can the NHL do to get more fans? (The Hockey News)

Canadian gold-medal Olympic men’s hockey team named CP Team of the Year (The Canadian Press)

Bigras highlights Team Canada cuts at World Junior selection camp

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Colorado Avalanche prospect Chris Bigras was one of five players sent home from Team Canada’s World Junior selection camp Sunday.

Bigras was a member of the 2014 Canadian squad, which lost to Russia in the bronze medal game in January.

Defenseman Travis Sanheim, a Philadelphia Flyers’ prospect, was returned to the Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League.

Forwards Remi Elie (Dallas Stars), Morgan Klimchuk (Calgary Flames) and Nick Baptiste (Buffalo Sabres) were also returned to their respective junior clubs.

Ottawa’s Curtis Lazar and Vancouver’s Bo Horvat are among those currently on NHL rosters who could possibly be added to the team, but a decision on their future must be made prior to the NHL’s roster freeze Dec. 19.

“It’s day-by-day. I haven’t heard anything, actually,” Horvat told ProHockeyTalk’s Cam Tucker. “Just trying to get better here and focus on trying to win here. If I keep doing that, eventually I’m sure they’re going to tell me what’s going on but for right now I’m just trying to focus on the Canucks.”

Team Canada’s roster currently consists of eight defencemen and 15 forwards and two goaltenders. The final roster, which needs to be finalized by Dec. 25, must be down to 22 players.