SEOUL, South Korea (AP) South Korean Olympic organizers still hope to see NHL players competing at next year’s Winter Games despite the National Hockey League’s insistence it won’t happen.
Nancy Park, a spokeswoman for the Pyeongchang 2018 organizing committee, said Tuesday there’s still time for ”meaningful discussions” on Olympic participation between the NHL, NHL Players’ Association, International Ice Hockey Federation and International Olympic Committee.
Park said the organizing committee is still hopeful that a ”solution will be found for 2018.”
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The NHL announced it will not participate in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, refusing for the first time in 20 years to halt its season for three weeks so its stars can chase gold for their home countries.
While the IIHF had agreed to pay for players’ travel and insurance costs when the IOC refused, the NHL had been looking for more concessions that were believed to be tied to marketing opportunities tied to the Games.
The NHLPA responded to the league’s announcement by saying players are ”extraordinarily disappointed and adamantly disagree with the NHL’s shortsighted decision.”
Many players, including Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin, have expressed a strong desire to compete. The NHL has not decided whether to allow teams to make decisions on a case-by-case basis about players participating in the 2018 Olympics.
Pyeongchang 2018 organizers have been concerned about the possibility of NHL players skipping next year’s Games as ice hockey has traditionally been a major ticket-seller during Winter Olympics.
South Korea has never been a powerhouse in the sport, but has qualified for the tournament as host and has started beefing up its ranks.