OLYMPICS? FOR­GET ABOUT IT

Mel­nyk says no chance NHLers go­ing to Win­ter Games

Ottawa Sun - - FRONT PAGE - BRUCE GARRIOCH bgar­rioch@post­media.com @sun­gar­rioch

There’s no se­cret plan for NHL play­ers and next year’s Win­ter Games.

While there has been spec­u­la­tion the league has a sched­ule in its back pocket to at­tend the PyeongChang Olympics in Fe­bru­ary just in case the International Olympic Com­mit­tee has a change of heart to try to en­tice play­ers to go, Ot­tawa Se­na­tors owner Eu­gene Mel­nyk has stated that’s not go­ing to be the case.

“As far as any chance of any­thing, I do know, it’s a done deal. We’re fin­ished. It’s be­yond the point of re­turn be­cause we have our sched­ule,” Mel­nyk told The Naz and Wally Show Sun­day morn­ing on Zoomer Ra­dio in Toronto. “And, now, ev­ery­body has been work­ing very hard for the last month to (get ready).

“The sched­ule is set. The dates are set. All of our fan ap­pre­ci­a­tion days are set. For us, es­pe­cially, we’re go­ing to Swe­den and that’s set. We’re go­ing to have an out­door game. You can’t move that sched­ule any­more. There’s 31 teams that are plan­ning things and have planned things. We’re way, way be­yond any­thing to do with 2018. That’s just not go­ing to hap­pen.

“You asked me if there’s any way of fix­ing this or do­ing some­thing with this? You can’t for this com­ing sea­son. Ab­so­lutely not. It’s Au­gust. We start train­ing camp in a month. Peo­ple start com­ing in and then we start full play in early Oc­to­ber. It’s ac­tu­ally tech­ni­cally im­pos­si­ble to do. Think of the tele­vi­sion that’s all set. There’s a lot of things that have been set in mo­tion that are pretty much ir­re­versible.”

Dick Pound, an IOC mem­ber from Mon­treal, wrote a first-per­son col­umn for the Mon­treal Gazette last week that crit­i­cized the league’s de­ci­sion not to at­tend. He also doesn’t like the fact that in­di­vid­ual play­ers won’t be given the right to go if they want.

“He works for them and he gets paid by them and it’s his job to pro­mote the fact that peo­ple should par­tic­i­pate in the Olympics,” Mel­nyk said.

Mel­nyk noted Pound should also be pro­mot­ing bet­ter fund­ing for am­a­teur ath­letes in Canada be­cause in­di­vid­ual ath­letes are hav­ing to dig into their own pock­ets to com­pete. Mel­nyk has been a sup­porter of Olympic ath­letes and un­der­stands the dif­fi­cul­ties for many am­a­teur Se­na­tors owner Eu­gene Mel­nyk says plans for next sea­son are ir­re­versible. ath­letes to make ends meet.

“I sug­gest one of the things that (Pound) fo­cuses on is not the NHL — fo­cus on how do you fund these poor am­a­teur ath­letes that aren’t rich kids,” Mel­nyk added.

Yes, there has been talk that the Washington Cap­i­tals will al­low winger Alex Ovechkin to at­tend to play with Rus­sia, but if Ot­tawa cap­tain Erik Karls­son wanted to go suit up for Swe­den, Mel­nyk doesn’t be­lieve that would be pos­si­ble.

It’s be­lieved the league will have a blan­ket policy on the sub­ject be­fore the sea­son.

“If (Karls­son) came to me it would sim­ply be a re­fer­ral to the NHL of­fices,” Mel­nyk said. “They took over. I don’t have to make a de­ci­sion. The de­ci­sion was made by them. He has to deal with what­ever those meet­ings if they oc­cur.”

Mel­nyk said the Olympics should be a stage for am­a­teur play­ers.

“This should be am­a­teur as it al­ways was in­tended from the be­gin­ning of time,” he added. “It’s an am­a­teur com­pe­ti­tion. Keep it that way. Now you’ve got box­ing matches. You’ve got pro­fes­sion­als, mak­ing multi-mil­lion dol­lars.”

The con­cern for Mel­nyk, nat­u­rally, is in­jury to the likes of Karls­son or any other star player. The Se­na­tors lost goalie Do­minik Hasek in 2006 with a groin in­jury while play­ing for the Czech Repub­lic in Turin, and he never re­turned to the club’s net.

“That was our year to win a Stan­ley Cup. We had all the mo­men­tum to win a Stan­ley Cup or, at the very least, get into the Stan­ley Cup fi­nal. We were there,” Mel­nyk said. “He wanted to go play for the Czech Repub­lic. We let him go.

“The first game he left and he doesn’t play an­other game for us. We begged him to (play). (Daniel) Al­freds­son and I begged him to, the coaches begged him, he said he wouldn’t do it and couldn’t do it, he had a groin in­jury and that was the end of Do­minik Hasek (in Ot­tawa).”

TONY CALD­WELL/POST­MEDIA NETWORK

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