Confidence has been expressed by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that a solution will be found guaranteeing the participation of National Hockey League (NHL) players at Pyeongchang 2018.
This comes as negotiations between the IOC, NHL and International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) continue to stall ahead of a reported deadline of January.
IIHF President René Fasel exclusively told insidethegames last month that reaching a deal is “even more difficult” than before because the IOC were refusing to pay accommodation costs and insurance costs at Pyeongchang 2018.
This is something they had done on all five occasions NHL players have featured since their debut at Nagano 1998.
“The IOC is confident that the IIHF will find a solution guaranteeing that the best hockey players will participate in the Games in 2018,” an IOC spokesperson has now told insidethegames.
It is not yet clear exactly why the IOC have changed their stance on insurance and accommodation.
One possible reason is the likely inclusion of baseball in the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic programme, with the IOC potentially keen to avoid setting a precedent for similar demands to be made by Major League Baseball (MLB).
World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) President Riccardo Fraccari has said this would be an issue “they would have to discuss together” if the sport is approved for inclusion at August’s IOC Session in Rio de Janeiro.
Other powerful leagues in sports such as tennis or golf could also act similarly, it is feared.
The latest statement suggests the IOC are not prepared to change their approach regarding the NHL and that they are attempting to put the onus on the IIHF to cover the costs.
In total, the IOC were thought to have contributed around $14 million (£10 million/€13 million) for Sochi 2014.
Around half of this amount was on transportation.
This comes alongside around $18 million (£12.5 million/€16 million) contributed by the IIHF for Sochi.
Fasel is confident they can reduce the transportation and insurance costs for Pyeongchang 2018, and estimates the total figure will come to around $10 million (£7 million/€9 million) this time around.
A general desire of all involved to participate is likely to count in his favour, with various NHL players have already called for a deal to be reached.
This includes Russian and Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin, who has vowed to participate regardless.
It comes after many NHL stars participated in the Men’s World Championships which concluded in Russia on Sunday (May 23) with a 2-0 victory for Canada over Finland.
By Nick Butler
Republished with permission from insidethegames.biz