The Int’l Ice Hockey Federation told SBD Global that it has not yet held talks with the NHL about the issue of player participation at the next Winter Olympics in South Korea. There is no guarantee that NHL players will compete in the 2018 PyeongChang Games, as the league is divided on the issue. While the Olympics raise the visibility of the sport in the U.S., the league’s owners have to look after their business interests. And those interests take a hit if a star player sustains a season-ending injury during the Olympic tournament -- just ask the N.Y. Islanders. The team lost forward John Tavares for the remainder of the season when he tore a knee ligament during the Sochi Games playing for Team Canada. IIHF President René Fasel knows and understands the resistance and concerns of the league and its owners. However, he hopes those issues can be resolved and an agreement reached so NHL players will be part of the next Winter Games. “Naturally, we want the NHL to be there also in 2018. But the talks have not started yet,” Fasel said. “We will see what the future brings.” The NHL and its players made their first Olympic appearance during the 1998 Nagano Games. Should the league and the IIHF fail to reach consent on the issue of participation, the 2018 PyeongChang Games would lose one of its biggest draws.
BACK TO BASICS? The upcoming Winter Games will be the first to be staged at an actual ski resort town since ’92, when Albertville, France hosted the Olympics. On the heels of the Sochi Games, which featured spring-like temperatures, people are wondering if Winter Olympics will ever return to "real" winter sports destinations. Fasel said that both approaches, having Winter Games in mountain towns as well as in places with no winter sports connection, make sense. “Taking the Games to places like Sochi helps spur the local investments into infrastructure and tourism. Sochi will now serve as an Olympic training center, something Russia has not had before,” he said. “Equally, the Olympics are a great opportunity for already well-established winter sports destinations to improve facilities and infrastructure. It also helps to reignite the local enthusiasm and love for sport.” Fasel, a strong supporter of Swiss ski resorts St. Moritz and Davos’ efforts to launch a bid for ’22, is going to pay close attention to the success or failure of the 2018 PyeongChang Games as it will impact future chances of mountain towns to host Winter Olympics.