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NHL, Players Association remain on opposite sides of Olympic issue

TORONTO — When it comes to the NHL participating in the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, the lines of demarcation have been established.

The league doesn’t see it happening while its Players Association believes when all is said and done, the NHL will allow the players to participate. The league has had a presence in the Olympics since 1998.

Both Players Association executive director Donald Fehr and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman spoke on the subject Sunday prior to the Centennial Classic at BMO Field and the stances could not be more opposite.

“I assume there will be further discussions over the course of the next several weeks, and I choose to be optimistic on this one,” Fehr said. “You get a sense of things as they go along, and how they’re likely to end up. It doesn’t mean you’re always right, but you get a sense of things.”

Bettman painted a much different and dour picture.

“We’ve been there, done that five times and while Vancouver and Salt Lake City were different, when you’re halfway around the world it’s not the easiest thing to have in our season,” he said. “Absent some compelling reason, I’m not sure there’s a whole lot of sentiment on the part of the clubs to go through the disruption of taking almost three weeks off during the season.”

Bettman said any deadlines for a decision are not coming from the NHL.

“Well, we’re not the ones who are setting the deadline on the clock, others seem to be doing it,” he said. “Nothing is really new to report since the board meeting in December. We haven’t had any further discussions with the IOC or the IIHF.

“It’s not just the risk of injury, because I see it discussed and reported during the Olympics, the compression to the regular season is something that concerns us. We’re hearing complaints now about the five-day break. While players say they like the five-day break, they’re also saying they don’t like the (schedule) compression that goes along with it. And that’s something that’s of great concern to us as well.”

Contact Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913. Follow @stevecarprj on Twitter.

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