IIHF president Rene Fasel has already said the financial hurdles standing between the NHL and International Olympic Committee could make the league think twice about sending its players to the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, but it may shock some to learn Fasel doesn’t even think there’s a 50-50 chance the two will reach an agreement that sees the game’s brightest stars play at the upcoming Winter Olympics.
In an interview with The Associated Press’ James Ellingworth, Fasel said he thinks a 50-50 chance is “very positive” and believes it’s more like a “60 percent (chance) that (the NHL) are not coming” to the 2018 games. The NHL has remained tightlipped and non-committal about participation in PyeongChang, but their decision may be coming sooner rather than later, according to Fasel.
While the league has been hesitant to announce a firm deadline for deciding on their potential participation in the games, Fasel told Ellingworth the NHL will likely come to a decision by the end of 2016 for scheduling purposes. However, the league waited until seven months before the 2014 Olympics to confirm they would send players to Sochi, so that doesn’t rule out the NHL coming to a final decision in early 2017.
“The NHL has to shut down the league for nearly three weeks which is huge in February,” Fasel told insidethegames.com of the NHL’s scheduling in late-April. “There is also a risk of injuries. The good point is that the players want to come, they want to be part of the Olympics, so we are trying to find solutions. It’s not easy.”
Some have considered the NHL’s World Cup of Hockey to be the replacement for the Olympics, but Fasel told Ellingworth that isn’t the case as there’s “nothing like the Olympics.” Fasel said there’s a rarity to an Olympic gold medal in that the opportunity only presents itself once every four years. That makes it different from winning a Stanley Cup, Fasel told Ellingworth, because NHL players compete for the Stanley Cup each season.
The opportunity for NHL players to capture the rare honor of Olympic gold could be slipping away, though, as the back-and-forth over costs of getting the athletes to and insuring them for the tournament appears to be a major sticking point. Fasel said there is still one way to get the NHL players to participate, which would see the individual national Olympic committees chip in and help fund the athletes transportation and insurance.
“At the end somebody has to pay,” Fasel said. “That’s the question. On my side I will do everything possible to make it happen.”