Alan Ashley, the United States’ Chef de Mission for the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics, says the country has made a “plan B” in case National Hockey League (NHL) players don’t play in the men’s ice hockey competition.
Doubts remain over whether players from the world’s best league will compete at the Games after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) opted to stop covering the cost of transportation and accommodation fees as they previously had.
NHL officials are also worried about the potential impact on their league, which would have to shut down for two weeks should the players be allowed to compete in Pyeongchang.
Insurance costs are another concern with NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly previously saying they are struggling to find a “compelling reason” to give the green light.
Players from the NHL have participated at every edition of the Winter Olympics since their debut appearance in Nagano in 1998.
International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) President René Fasel said he hoped to source the required finances himself but this has been met with indifference.
The NHL Players’ Association has also 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 owners’ lockout that led to almost half of the 2012-13 season being missed and is due to expire in 2022.
Although a resolution appears a long way off, a deal for NHL players to compete at Sochi 2014 was only agreed seven months before those Games.
IOC President Thomas Bach is among those calling for a solution.
The United States team in Pyeongchang would have a very different feel without NHL players to pick from.
“The sooner we get a resolution the better from the standpoint of our ability to plan with USA Hockey and make sure we’re doing a good job supporting them,” said Ashley, in a conference call held to mark Thursday’s (February 9) one-year-to-go milestone before the Games in South Korea begin.
“The question is still out there on who’s going to participate and which athletes are going to participate.
“We’re just waiting like everyone else to see how this all sorts itself out.
“We have a plan A and a plan B and we’ll be ready for whatever the outcome is and do our very best to make sure our hockey team is ready to go.
“They are thinking through carefully how to make that transition.
“I’m really confident the USA Hockey team is focused on this and have a pretty good idea of where they want to go.”
By Dan Palmer
Republished with permission from insidethegames.biz.