On Friday morning, the news broke that the NHL, the IIHF and the IOC and other interested parties are close to an agreement about the League’s participation in the Sochi Olympics next year.
Executive Director of the Russian Hockey Federation Valeriy Fesyuk told Russian news agency RIA that the NHL may announce their participation as early as 10 days from now, after the conclusion of the IIHF World Championships that is being held in Sweden and Finland at this time. This is what Fesyuk said:
Q. According to our information, there is a big meeting being held in Stockholm these days that includes representatives from the NHL. Is it so?
FESYUK: “It is true, on Thursday there was a meeting with the NHL and the NHLPA. I think Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly came over. But that meeting was attended by the President of the Russian Hockey Federation Vladislav Tretiak [representing Russia], therefore, unfortunately, I don’t know all of the details. I only know that the meeting was about removing the last obstacles before the Olympics. These are small details: For example, the NHL is asking to designate a special area for family interactions, as well as, apparently, asking for some kind of assistance with insurance.”
So, this means that the yes or no answer whether NHL players will come to Sochi was not sought?
“No, it doesn’t matter here anymore. The North Americans want to secure more favorable conditions – that’s true. But the fact that the NHL will participate in the Olympics is not in doubt.”
What a news!
“I think that this is not a secret to anyone anymore. They made up their mind a long time ago. That’s why their management is traveling, observing, negotiating concessions for themselves. I think that right after the World Championships the NHL will officially announce about their participation in the [Sochi] Olympics.”
Bill Daly, when speaking to the official website of the IIHF, stopped short of confirming Fesyuk’s words, stating:
“We are proceeding under the assumption that the NHL will participate in Sochi. We are still working on important issues with the IIHF and the IOC, and subject to our board of governors’ consideration and approval, it remains the objective that Sochi will be the fifth consecutive Olympics with NHL participation and where the NHL shuts down for the duration of the Olympic tournament.”
The IIHF is reporting Daly did elaborate on the logistics involved for the NHL:
• All players will travel by charter from four North American hubs to Sochi.
• The last playing day prior to the Olympic break is scheduled for February 8, 2014, with approximately half of the 30 teams playing on that day and half on February 7.
• The selected players will depart on February 8 or 9. They will arrive in Sochi on the 10th with Tuesday 11th being a full practice day. The men’s tournament opens on February 12.
• The NHL’s regular season schedule will resume on February 25, two days after the Gold Medal Game in Sochi.
It looks like all is left is the formality of an actual announcement, which is a great news for hockey fans in Russia. The Sochi Olympics will be the first Winter Games held in Russia.