SBD/Issue 14/Leagues & Governing Bodies

Bettman: Kicking Women's Hockey Out Of Olympics Would Be Mistake

NHL Commish Says It Is Important To Help
Support Growth Of Women's Hockey

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman yesterday at the Beyond Sport Summit said kicking women's hockey out of the Olympics would be a "huge mistake," according to Nancy Armour of the AP. Bettman said that the "best way to inspire future players and encourage national federations to devote resources to the women's game is through major events like the Olympics." Bettman: "My own view is it's very important to support women's hockey, to maintain its presence at the Olympics. The way women's hockey will get bigger and better around the world is if there's an inspiration of excellence that people can strive for." Armour noted "no other country comes close to Canada and the United States in the women's game," and that "disparity was glaring at the Vancouver Olympics." A lack of competitive balance was "one of the reasons cited when softball was eliminated as an Olympic sport," and IOC President Jacques Rogge "warned in Vancouver that the rest of the world has eight years to catch up or women's hockey could face a similar fate." Meanwhile, Bettman said that the NHL is "in no rush to make a decision on the use of professional players" at the '14 Sochi Games. The NHL "has concerns about the benefits to the league of releasing its players for the Olympic tournament" in Sochi, which is "eight hours ahead" of the U.S. East Coast. Bettman: "Maybe I make the mistake of being too candid, trying to give people a sense of the issues, that these are some of the negatives. It doesn't mean we're not going. But if you're going to make this decision, you've got to at least understand what you're getting into" (AP, 9/29).

MAINTAINING OPTIMISM: IIHF President Rene Fasel said that "he's 'sure' an agreement will be reached with the NHL to keep the world's best players in the Olympics." Fasel said of the prospect of NHL players competing in Sochi, "We will find a solution. I am sure." Fasel called the Vancouver Games "the highlight" for NHL players since they became part of the Olympics in '98. IIHF General Secretary Horst Lichtner said "things are on the table" with the NHL and the IOC for Sochi participation. Lichtner: "We can tackle most of that. Some are difficult. Some are easy. But it's a good time now ... not when everybody is in a rush a year or two years before the event" (Colorado Springs GAZETTE, 9/30).

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