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IOC claims breakthrough in ice hockey talks for Pyeongchang 2018

The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) has agreed to pay the travel and insurance costs of NHL players for the 2018 winter Olympic Games in a bid to ensure their participation at next year’s event in Pyeongchang, according to the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

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 latest standoff between the NHL, IIHF and IOC. However, IOC spokesman Mark Adams has said the IIHF has stepped up with the hope that a contribution that could run as high as $20m (€18.4m) may help persuade the NHL to allow its players to compete.

“Because of the interest of the Olympic movement to see the NHL players in the Olympic Games, the IIHF has ensured that the travel and insurance cost of the NHL players will be fully covered, as was the case in previous Olympic Games,” Adams told the Reuters news agency.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman last week said “people should assume” that players from the North American league will not be competing at Pyeongchang 2018 with talks between the relevant parties having reached an impasse.

Next year’s Games in South Korea are due to take place from February 9-25 – halfway through the NHL season – and the league has 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.

Talks between the NHL, the IIHF and the IOC last took place in February. The NHL is 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.

Adams told Reuters talks between the NHL and the IIHF were ongoing but the IOC would not be treating the league any differently than other international sports federations it deals with. “Obviously, this time the owners of the NHL clubs are putting more commercial conditions to the IOC and the Olympic movement,” Adams said.

“The IOC has been informed the talks between the International Federation and the NHL are continuing. The IOC knows that the NHL understands that the Olympic Movement cannot treat the owners of a commercial franchise of a national league better than an international sports federation or other professional leagues with regard to the Olympic Games.”

He added: “We know that the players definitely want to play and the fans want to watch the best players in the Olympic winter Games Pyeongchang 2018. These Games give the greatest worldwide exposure to the sport of ice hockey. The offer for the two Olympic winter Games 2018 and 2022 remains on the table and we are still hopeful there will be an agreement in the interests of all.”