Fasel isn’t giv­ing up on the NHL in the Olympics

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - JEROME PUGMIRE

The NHL still has a cou­ple more months to re­verse its de­ci­sion and opt to par­tic­i­pate in next year’s Olympics in South Korea.

In­ter­na­tional Ice Hockey Fed­er­a­tion Pres­i­dent Rene Fasel said Tues­day his or­ga­ni­za­tion was in con­tact with the Na­tional Hockey League Play­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion two or three times per week, hop­ing to work out a so­lu­tion that will bring the sport’s big­gest stars to Pyeongchang.

“I would say the lat­est we can do is end of June, be­gin­ning of July, for cal­en­dars, sched­ules, are­nas,” Fasel said at a news con­fer­ence dur­ing the hockey worlds. “We will see.”

Fasel, who is Swiss, also said he plans to call NHL Com­mis­sioner Gary Bettman, but he didn’t seem too en­thu­si­as­tic about his chances.

“I have a very good re­la­tion with Gary. But what can I say? I have noth­ing to give him,” Fasel said. “I can say ‘Hello, how are you? Great play­offs.’ Just so­cial talk. Maybe I come to New York, we have a steak and go back. This is the way it is.

“The puck is for sure on the stick of the NHL Play­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion and we will see.”

Last month, the NHL an­nounced that it will not stop its sea­son to al­low play­ers to com­pete at the Feb. 925 Olympics for the first time in 20 years.

“I’m a very pos­i­tive per­son so I never give up, and there is still some time where maybe we can con­vince Gary Bettman to change his opin­ion,” Fasel said.

The NHL has not de­cided whether to al­low teams to make de­ci­sions on a case-by-case ba­sis.

It was not im­me­di­ately clear how the United States, Canada and other coun­tries will fill Olympic ros­ters, though na­tional fed­er­a­tions have al­ready be­gun plan­ning.

“We played be­fore with­out the NHL, we will have any­way a great tour­na­ment. But it would be so much bet­ter with the best play­ers in the world,” Fasel said. “The play­ers want to go, so I re­ally don’t un­der­stand. But, if Gary de­cides not to go to the Olympics, the fans will not be happy, the play­ers will not be happy, I hope (the) me­dia won’t be happy. The whole world will not be happy.”

Skip­ping the Olympics in Pyeongchang would be a huge mis­take, Fasel said, in terms of grow­ing hockey in Asia.

“There is a unique op­por­tu­nity for our sport to show up there, a unique op­por­tu­nity for the NHL to be there,” said Fasel, who is also a long-stand­ing IOC mem­ber. “We are in dis­cus­sion with the IOC. We have in­ter­nally our dis­cus­sion and we try and make a snow­ball, a pack­age that maybe we can go to Gary (with) and say ‘Lis­ten, Gary: Yes or no?’

“There is noth­ing big­ger and more im­por­tant. We don’t have a bet­ter plat­form for our sport than the Olympic Win­ter Games. Three bil­lion peo­ple watch­ing.”

NHL stars such as Wash­ing­ton Cap­i­tals cap­tain Alex Ovechkin, Chicago Black­hawks cen­tre Jonathan Toews and New York Rangers goal­tender Hen­rik Lundqvist have all spo­ken out strongly in favour of tak­ing part.

The NHL’s stance, if un­changed, would put Rus­sia in a pretty dom­i­nant po­si­tion.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE PHOTO

As far as IIHF pres­i­dent Rene Fasel is con­cerned, it’s never too late to keep work­ing on get­ting NHL play­ers in the Olympics in South Korea.

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