How much do the Russians really want NHL players to participate in the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014?
"A lot" would be an understatement.
This is now of the highest priority with the Russian Prime Minister (and the future President) of Russia Vladimir Putin, who called on the Russian Minister of Sport to organize a meeting with the NHL.
"I have asked Minister of Sport to hold consultations with our friends and colleagues from Canada. It also has a certain meaning because we have to ensure that our players, who play in the NHL, come to the 2014 Olympic Games, [and] to have the NHL calendar put together accordingly," Putin was quoted by Russian news agency RIAN.
Putin also proposed to combine business and pleasure and to ask North American "negotiators" to play a game to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the 1972 Summit Series.
"We will come to an agreement with them," Putin said. "We can do it not only for the result but as a show of respect to what you [Putin was talking to hockey veterans Alexander Yakushev and Vladimir Myshkin] and your friends did for the advancement of hockey"
As things stand, this is only a plan now. But it just shows how important it is for the country to have the best hockey players in the world to participate in the Sochi Winter Olympics.