Pyeongchang 2018’s ice hockey venues have been praised by National Hockey League (NHL) inspectors as they continue their deliberations over whether to participate in the Winter Olympics during a visit to South Korea this week.
According to Mathieu Schneider, special assistant to the executive director of the National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA), preparations on the Kwandong and Gangneung Hockey Centres compare favorably with those at 2014 hosts Sochi with 15 months to go.
“I think they’re much further ahead at this point than Sochi, roughly a little over a year out [from the Olympics],” Schneider told the Yonhap news agency.
“I think we’re very impressed with the progress and the facilities that we’ve seen.
“I think everyone is very dedicated to having a top-notch event.
“We’d expect nothing less coming here.”
Lynn White, group vice president of international strategy for the NHL, added that organizers appear to be “well ahead of schedule with respect to the preparations for the Olympic Games.”
There is still no certainty that players from the world’s largest league will participate, however.
NHL stars have appeared at every edition of the Games since their debut at Nagano 1998, but discussions have stalled in the last year after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) reduced the amount of financial support they were prepared to offer.
It is still not clear who will foot the transportation and insurance expenses, which International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) President René Fasel estimates will come to around $10 million due to the long flights involved.
Schneider claimed this remains “the biggest obstacle” and warned that players, while keen to participate, would not want to shoulder the burden themselves.
“I understand from the IOC’s perspective that they don’t want to pay players to come, but at the same time, players don’t necessarily want to pay to come to the Olympics as well,” he said.
“It’s certainly not something that can’t be overcome.
“We’re optimistic that it will all work out in the end.
“Players love playing in the Olympics.
“That’s why we’ve participated in the last five Olympics.”
There does not appear much chance of the players being asked to pay, with it more likely that the IIHF will attempt to raise the funds themselves.
Many players have expressed a wish to participate.
At least one, Russian star Alexander Ovechkin, has said said they will play regardless of whether permission is given.
By Nick Butler
Republished with permission from insidethegames.biz.