International Ice Hockey Federation president Rene Fasel is holding out hope that the National Hockey League will participate in the 2018 Winter Games.
While the National Hockey League announced last month that it will not be sending its players to Pyeonchang and considered the matter closed, Fasel told German newspaper Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger that a final decision could be made as late as mid-July.
Any later would make it logistically impossible to book accommodations for the large contingent of NHL players, officials and family.
Attending the IIHF World Championship, Fasel told the outlet he is still negotiating with both the NHL and the International Olympic Committee in an attempt to strike an agreement.
“I am ready to swim across the Atlantic if it needs to be,” Fasel said. “But there is a limit I can not cross.
“And if the NHL decides not to come, then so be it.”
Among the points of contention is IOC president Thomas Bach’s declining to cover travel and insurance costs of NHLers.
On April 4, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told Prime Time Sports that the league is “not looking to negotiate” its Olympic position.
“NHL clubs have not wanted to go to the Olympics and we have been saying that for months if not years,” said Bettman.
When the NHL announced it wouldn’t participate in 2018, several star players expressed disappointment. Some refused to believe the decision was final.
“For some reason, for me, I still feel like it’s going to happen,” American T.J. Oshie said. “It’s going to come down to the very last moment for me to when I really believe we’re not going to go. It would be very unfortunate if we weren’t able to go over there and play.”
“If Ovechkin wants to play at the Olympics and is registered by his national Olympic committee, he has the right to be in Pyeongchang,” Fasel told Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger. “No problem — he must simply have a passport and be reported.
“There are a few legal hurdles, but we are clarifying this.”
The NHL has yet to announce a plan to deal with players who wish to leave their club teams to participate.