PHILADELPHIA – The NHL’s Olympic break is less than two weeks away but the threat of terrorism is keeping the situation volatile.
After deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the league would consider pulling out of Sochi if something “significant” happens before players arrive, those set to participate are trying not to worry about that scenario.
“Between the NHL and the NHLPA and the Olympic people, in communication obviously with the people in Russia, they’re going to advise us if we shouldn’t go,” Ken Holland of Canada’s management team said Tuesday. “I’m looking at the lead of the NHL.
“Until they tell us we’re not going, I’m going to Newark and going to jump on a plane and go to Sochi.”
A Hockey Canada spokesman said the organization had no official comment, adding nothing has changed about the situation.
Charter planes are scheduled to leave for Sochi on Feb. 9, two days after the opening ceremony. Security concerns are keeping athletes on edge well before that, though Daly said in an email to the Associated Press he doesn’t expect the plan to change.
“Obviously, if something significant were to transpire between now and February 9 that causes us to question that conclusion, we will re-evaluate,” Daly told the AP.
Forward Tomas Tatar, who will represent Slovakia, read about that Tuesday morning before the Detroit Red Wings’ morning skate.
“There would (have to) be a good reason if something happens before,” Tatar said. “Obviously that would be not everything’s OK there, so I would probably agree with the people here—why we should go there if something is not good? Hopefully nothing will happen and I think everything’s in good hands.”
Olympic teammate Andrej Meszaros, a defenceman for the Philadelphia Flyers, said that possibility is in the back of his mind even if he doesn’t want it to be.
“It would be disappointing, that’s for sure, but safety first,” Meszaros said. “There’s nothing you can do about it.
“Unfortunately, the world is like it is with the threats and there’s nothing you can do about it. People are (ticked) off. We’ll see what happens in the next few days.”
Mark Streit, who represented Switzerland in Salt Lake City in 2002, Turin in 2006 and Vancouver in 2010, is trying to keep his focus on the Flyers’ upcoming schedule and not the off-chance NHL players won’t go to Sochi.
“The NHL will do what they think is the best for the players and for our safety and for the families’ safety,” Streit said. “That’s out of (our) control. I’m not really worried about that.”
Jimmy Howard, who’s expected to be the third U.S. goaltender, is more worried about bouncing back from another knee injury. He insisted he’s not thinking about Olympic contingency plans or security concerns.
“I’m trying not to let that consume me,”Howard said. “I look at it as this could be possibly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“I’m hoping everything goes off without a hitch.”
U.S. forward James van Riemsdyk said after the Maple Leafs’ morning skate in Toronto on Tuesday he doesn’t have any family members going and that it’s tough not to wonder about the safety of athletes in Sochi.
“They’ve reassured us that they’re taking a lot of measures over there,” van Riemsdyk said. “All the players want to play, that’s not really the issue here. Safety is the No. 1 priority.”
Jakub Voracek of the Czech Republic is hoping the Russian government has spent enough money to keep everyone safe.
“I think the security, it’s very tight there,” the Flyers winger said. “Obviously it’s going to be a pain, probably, for the people that want to watch the games or something. But it’s what you got to do.
“In today’s world you never know what happens. You go into the mall right here and there’s a shooting. You go to the movie theatre, you get shot. A lot of crazy people running around in the world today. It’s not only in Russia. You’ve got to make sure that the security’s very tight.”
While Howard hopes these are just “empty threats” against the Olympics, Holland recalled similar concerns going into Vancouver. Political concerns in that region of Russia have made this seem like a more dangerous situation.
“I think in this world we live in today, unfortunately there are times that you always have concern,” Holland said. “But you have to trust that the people that are in charge of security are going to be on top of things.”
The Players’ Association said in a statement “the NHLPA continues to be in contact with Olympic and security officials regarding plans for the Olympic Games in Sochi, and will work closely with all concerned to monitor matters in advance of and during the Games.”
With files from Dhiren Mahiban in Toronto and the Associated Press.
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