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USA Hockey, USOC Discuss ‘Plan B’ for 2018 Winter Olympics Participation if no NHL Deal Reached

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NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. Photo: Mark Humphrey/The Associated Press

United States Olympic Committee (USOC) officials have discussed a “Plan B” with USA Hockey over how they will participate at the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games if players from the National Hockey League (NHL) do not compete.

Top stars from the NHL, the world’s largest league, have participated in the last five Games since first appearing at Nagano 1998.

However, reaching a deal for the Korean Games is proving harder than ever after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) opted not to cover the cost of transportation and accommodation fees as they previously had.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman claimed last week how team owners are showing a “strong negative sentiment” and are showing signs of “fatigue” after appearing at the five previous editions.

The NHL would have to shut down for two weeks in order for its players to compete at the Games – scheduled to take place from February 9 to 25 – and the league has said previously it would like to make a decision by January 2017.

If no deal is reached, the US team would consist of players from collegiate-level and minor leagues.

“We have had discussions with USA Hockey about a Plan B if that does not happen,” USOC chief executive Scott Blackmun was quoted as saying by Reuters.

“Obviously it creates more challenges for them and for us from an organisational standpoint, we’re still very hopeful the NHL players will be there.

“We know they [players] want to be there and we understand the challenges it creates for the league.

“We are certainly exploring all avenues that would allow that to happen.”

Accommodation and transportation costs are estimated to total around $10 million due to the long flights involved to Korea.

International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) President René Fasel claims he will be able to raise the money himself through IIHF funds and by soliciting help within the sport and from other supporters.

But others are worried that, by calling on bodies like USA Hockey to contribute, funds could be diverted from grassroots development programs.

IOC President Thomas Bach claimed earlier this month that it was in the “interest of all parties” to see athletes from the league represent their countries at Pyeongchang 2018.

An agreement was only reached for Sochi 2014 just seven months before the Opening Ceremony, so time does remain to hammer out a deal.

But a latest attempt to reach an agreement failed earlier this month.

Don Fehr, executive director of the NHL Players’ Association (NHLPA), confirmed how the body had formally turned down a deal which would have permitted Winter Olympic participation in return for an extension to their current collective bargaining agreement.

This was last negotiated during a strike that led to almost half of the 2012-13 season being missed and is due to expire in 2022.

NHL officials were hoping to use the Pyeongchang carrot to force an extension until 2025.

Almost all countries due to compete at the Games would be hit by the absence of NHL players, although the US and Canada would be especially affected.

By Nick Butler

Republished with permission from insidethegames.biz

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