NHL Reaches Deal With IOC, IIHF Allowing Players To Participate in '14 Sochi Games
The NHL on Friday announced its players "will participate in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia," according to Lance Pugmire of the L.A. TIMES. The Olympic men's hockey tournament will "be held Feb. 12-23, the fifth consecutive Games in which NHL players will be participating." The last NHL games before the Olympics "will be held Feb. 8, and league play will resume Feb. 26" (L.A. TIMES, 7/20). In N.Y., Jeff Klein noted to accommodate the 18-day Olympic break, the NHL "will open its schedule a few days earlier, with three games on Oct. 1." The release of the NHL and men’s Olympic schedules "was delayed by at least two days." The NHLPA and the Olympic authorities "had difficulty reaching a final agreement on transportation arrangements for families and associates of players from North America to Russia" (N.Y. TIMES, 7/20). In Pittsburgh, Shelly Anderson noted the Olympic break means the rest of the Penguins' schedule "is jammed, including 16 back-to-back games and 13 instances of three games played in four nights." Penguins C Sidney Crosby said, "You find out that in an Olympic year the schedule is a little more condensed, a little more intense than a typical year" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 7/20).
STICKING POINTS: In Boston, Kevin Paul Dupont noted NHL participation "was considered a fait accompli, but commissioner Gary Bettman needed more assurances from the International Olympic Committee and International Ice Hockey Federation on such details as game video being made available for extensive use on nhl.com" (BOSTON GLOBE, 7/21). In DC, Katie Carrera noted while the NHL "receives a publicity boost from the involvement of its players, coaches and officials in the Olympics, there was debate as to whether the league should continue to take part." Concern over "potential injury to players, the drawbacks of halting the NHL season in mid-winter and bargaining of media rights were among the top issues as the league and NHLPA worked out an agreement" with the IOC and IIHF. However, there was "never any doubt that the players wanted to remain involved" (WASHINGTON POST, 7/20).
BIGGER IS BETTER? In Chicago, Chris Kuc noted the agreement between the NHL, NHLPA and IIHF "stipulates seven NHL referees and six NHL linesmen will be integrated into the IIHF on-ice officials’ crews that will work the men’s tournament and the contests will be played on international-sized rinks." During the '10 Vancouver Games, the hockey competition was "played on a smaller, NHL-sized rink at the home of the Canucks" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 7/20).