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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

Jaromir Jagr announces retirement… from Czech National team

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The Czech Republic’s loss in the bronze medal game to Sweden in the 2014 World Championships will be the last time Jaromir Jagr hits the ice for his country.

Jagr, 42, said following the game it would be the last time he’ll play for the Czech Republic. After playing in the Olympics five times and at Worlds eight times, he said it was time to take a break as Rich Chere of The Star-Ledger shared.

“When I count the last two years, I think I’ve played the most games of any hockey player in the world,” Jagr said. “I’m not 21 anymore. On the other side, I don’t mind playing. I don’t get tired.

“I took a chance. I knew it was going to be tough for me to come from the small ice to go on the big ice. I know it’s join to help me next year.”

If that’s Jagr’s way of calling it quits internationally, it’s not totally convincing. Perhaps missing out on a medal at both the Sochi Olympics and Worlds has him feeling a bit cranky.

After all, he’s said repeatedly he has no plans of hanging it up completely and he just signed a one-year deal to stay with the New Jersey Devils. Chances are a guy like Jagr has carte blanche to play for the national team if he so chooses. If this truly is it for him with the national team, his career there has been brilliant with a gold medal at the 1998 Olympics and a bronze in 2006.

Czech coach resigns after disappointing Olympics, blames media

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According to reports out of the Czech Republic, coach Alois Hadamczik has resigned from that position with the team following the Czechs sixth-place finish in Sochi.

While they made it as far as the quarterfinals before losing to the United States, the team was wrought with controversial choices for the roster as well as Hadamczik’s methods and decisions behind the bench.

During the Games, there were reports of dysfunction in the Czech locker room and while those reports were denied, the team’s play on the ice pointed towards there being other problems.

Of course, if you ask Hadamczik about why he’s stepping down, he has other ideas about why.

Darn that media for rising up against the coach who happened to pick Michal Barinka, his son-in-law, instead of taking St. Louis Blues defenseman Roman Polak.

Report: Elias still sick, will miss game vs. Slovakia

If the Czech Republic is going to get past Slovakia for a match-up against the United States, they’ll likely have to do it without Patrik Elias.

According to Zdenek Janda of iSport in the Czech Republic, Elias will miss the qualifying round game against the Slovaks with an illness. Elias missed the previous game against Switzerland with the same problem.

Elias was not either power play unit during the team’s practice on Monday according to iSport. That points toward him not being able to go for the game on Tuesday. Janda’s report is further evidence of that.

The Czechs’ curious decisions on their roster have provided enough debate fodder already after their mostly disappointing play during the opening round. Now with Elias likely missing this game, those choices will be put under the microscope again.

Turns out Hanzal was a healthy scratch against Sweden

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Forward Martin Hanzal was scratched in the opening game of the Olympic tournament for the Czech Republic against Sweden. At the time, it was believed he was sitting out because he was feeling under the weather, like teammate Radko Gudas was doing.

It turns out that’s not the case. Elliotte Friedman of CBC reports a Czech official said Hanzal had no injury and it was coach Alois Hadamczik’s decision to sit him.

Opting to sit Hanzal goes on a growing list of curious decisions made by the Czechs concerning the Olympic team.

It started with the choices made for the team when forwards Jiri Hudler and Radim Vrbata were not chosen to represent the country. Then, forward Martin Erat was selected over both of those players to replace Vladimir Sobotka who couldn’t play because of an injury.

Top that off with Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec not even dressing against Sweden and the fact that defenseman Michal Barinka is married to coach Hadamczik’s daughter and you’ve got quite the curious situation all around.

If the Czechs wind up out of the tournament early, there will be a lot of fingers being pointed around the room.

The Czechs next game is against Latvia on Friday at 3 a.m. ET.