The NHL is ”proceeding under the assumption” that its players will take part in next year’s Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, deputy commissioner Bill Daly said Friday.
NHL representatives and international hockey and Olympic officials met in Stockholm in a new round of talks aimed at securing an agreement for the league’s participation in the Sochi Games.
While no final deal was reached, all sides indicated they expect the NHL will send players to the Olympics for a fifth straight time.
Attending Friday’s meeting were officials from the NHL, the league players’ association, the International Ice Hockey Federation, the IOC and Sochi organizers.
”We are working hard putting together the last pieces to ensure NHL players’ participation in Sochi,” IIHF President Rene Fasel said on the federation’s website. ”We have some issues left, but I, as always, remain optimistic.”
Neither Daly nor Fasel mentioned a time frame for finalizing an agreement.
”We are proceeding under the assumption that the NHL will participate in Sochi,” Daly said. ”Hopefully sometime soon we will be able to give the recommendation to our board of governors regarding our league’s Olympic participation.”
Tyler Currie, director of international affairs for the NHLPA, also sounded upbeat.
”All parties are committed to making this happen, but there are still key logistical issues to be solved,” he said. ”We have some unique challenges that will require creative solutions.”
Under current plans outlined by Daly, the last playing day prior to the league shutting down for the Olympics is scheduled for Feb. 8. NHL players will travel by charter flights from four North American hubs and arrive in Sochi on Feb. 10, two days before the start of the Olympic tournament.
The NHL’s regular season schedule will resume on Feb. 25, two days after the gold medal game in Sochi.
Player insurance has been one of the major issues.
”There is obviously a risk involved when you bring over a projected 160-180 NHL players where the total contract value would be around $3 billion,” Daly said. ”This is a risk which must be insured, especially in cases of season-ending or career-ending injuries.”
The NHL also wants to market its players on NHL-TV and its website during the games, which is complicated because of television rights issues.
”We want to promote the fact that the NHL and its players are participating in the Olympics during a period when our league shuts down,” Daly said.
On other Olympic issues, Daly said:
— NHL/NHLPA professional medics will follow every game.
— The NHL will send seven referees and six linesmen to Sochi.
— Twelve NHL security personnel will assist the Olympic security contingent.
IIHF sports director Dave Fitzpatrick said teams will be requested to announce tentative rosters five to six weeks before the start of the Olympics.
Rosters will be increased by two players from the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, with teams permitted to bring 22 skaters and three goaltenders. Previously, the rules allowed 20 skaters and three goalies.