SOCHI – Representatives from the IIHF, IOC, NHL, and the Sochi organising committee met this week in Sochi to review the facilities for the 2014 Winter Olympics and hold further discussions over having NHL players participating in the men’s ice hockey tournament. The overall mood of the talks was positive.
“This was a very good couple days of site visits of the Olympic venues and infrastructure, followed by some good discussions with the NHL representatives,” said IIHF President René Fasel. “I remain optimistic about the NHL's participation in Sochi and I hope that we can come to an agreement latest beginning of May, which would be good for the teams as to which players to select for the World Championships.”
If the NHL takes a break in its 2013-2014 regular season schedule for the Games, it would be the fifth consecutive Olympic tournament with NHL participation, the first coming in Nagano in 1998. The Winter Olympics in Sochi, the first Olympics to be hosted by the Russian Federation, will kick off February 7, 2014, with the men’s tournament scheduled to open on February 12.
While there was a general feeling that the meetings did help to advance the case of NHLers playing in the Games, President Fasel cautioned that more work needed to be done.
“It must be said that many challenges remain and that this is more than just an IIHF-NHL issue. We have also the IOC, the NHLPA, the Sochi organizers, the National Olympic Committees and the IIHF affiliated national ice hockey associations. There is still lots of coordinating to be done.”
The NHL delegation to Sochi was headed by NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly, who shared Fasel’s view.
"We had two productive days of meetings in Sochi," said Daly. "Saw and visited all the hockey venues, the Olympic Village and other key Olympics-related infrastructure. We met with the Sochi Organizing Committee, the IIHF and a number of IOC representatives. There is more work to be done, but it was an important trip for us to make."