International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) president Rene Fasel has written off any chance of a late deal for National Hockey League (NHL) players to compete at the 2018 winter Olympic Games, stating “that train has left the station”.
In April, the North American league confirmed it would not participate in the Games, stating no “meaningful dialogue” had materialised to convince it of the benefits of disrupting its season so its stars can compete in Pyeongchang.
The NHL’s decision is set to end a run of five consecutive winter Games with the league’s players and followed months of back and forth between the organisation, the IIHF and International Olympic Committee (IOC).
Local organisers in Korea, and the IIHF, have since held out hope of a late agreement being reached, but Fasel (pictured) has now dismissed the chances of this happening. He told the Reuters news agency: “I can say that this is now gone. We can tick that off the list.
“We will have to look ahead to China and the Beijing 2022 winter Games because there is an interest of the league and we have noted that. But logistically it is practically impossible for Pyeongchang. That train has left the station.”
April’s announcement came after the IOC earlier claimed that the IIHF had agreed to pay the travel and insurance costs of NHL players for the 2018 Games in a bid to ensure their participation at next year’s event in Pyeongchang.
The IOC has covered these costs for the past five editions of the Games, but has refused to do so for Korea’s Olympics, leading to the standoff between the NHL, IIHF and IOC. Next year’s Games are due to take place from February 9-25 – halfway through the NHL season – and the league has repeatedly expressed its concerns over players picking up injuries while competing in Pyeongchang and playing in a market that is not a hotbed for the sport.
The NHL was also reportedly seeking an agreement that would grant it the status of an IOC ‘TOP Partner’ for shutting down during its season, allowing it to market the Games on its platforms.
By contrast, the league is keen to compete at Beijing 2022 and is poised to stage two pre-season games in China. The Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks will face-off on September 21 in Shanghai and then again in Beijing two days later.
While the NHL has refused to release its players, some, including Russian star Alex Ovechkin, who plays for the Washington Capitals, have stated their determination to compete in Pyeongchang. “For some individuals (NHL players) who said they will come we will have to see how we will do it,” Fasel said.