HELSINKI Ė NHL stars at the IIHF World Championship in Stockholm and Helsinki are excited about the news that progress continues toward a deal for NHL participation at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Whether theyíre veteran Olympians or potential first-timers, from Europe or from North America, the message that IIHF.com reporters have heard is universal: "We want to play."
Eric Staal, Canada: With the Olympics, you get the best players in the world and that's phenomenal. I've been fortunate enough to be a part of two and played in one. There is no better competition, so I'm all for it and hope they get it sorted out.
Steven Stamkos, Canada: Iím 100 per cent for it. I think no matter where you play in the NHL, AHL, or Europe, you should have the opportunity to represent your country, especially at an event like the Olympics. Thatís the highest honour you can have, representing your country. I think itís been unbelievable in the past seeing NHL players go over there. It brings excitement to the Winter Olympics and itís one of the marquee events where spectators and fans want to see the best players there and deserve to. I am definitely for it.
Ilya Kovalchuk, Russia: You know, I know the NHL is trying to get everything they can to prepare themselves for going to Sochi. But itís the main event for the Olympics, the hockey tournament. All the best players have got to play there. Iím pretty sure there are smart people who are at the head of the [NHL] and the Russian Federation. So I think theyíll find a way to get the deal done.
Paul Stastny, United States: We believe that we are going to play in Sochi. Weíre not thinking of any other options. The guys that have a shot are gearing up this summer to have their best year to make the Olympic team. It's tough with the time difference and the TV times, but it's the most important sporting event in the world and you want the best athletes from all sports. If you don't have the NHL players there, you're not going to have the best players there. It wouldn't be as special as itís been since Nagano. You want to keep growing the sport, and I think letting the players play in the Olympics is another step forward.
Gabriel Landeskog, Sweden: I don't think the Olympics would be the same if NHL players weren't allowed to play there. I think it is an event that NHL players should be at and allowed to participate in. That's what makes it so fun. It's a great event to watch and hopefully things get worked out and NHL players will be there.
Tomas Kopecky, Slovakia: Itís a great experience, representing your country in the Olympics. Not everybody gets that chance. Itís a great feeling and something special. Itís not like World Juniors or World Championships, which are every year. Itís every four years. Itís special. I heard in Russia theyíve done a great job of getting everything ready. It should be an awesome experience.
LUCAS AYKROYD, RISTO PAKARINEN, JOHN SANFUL