Rene Fasel says a barrier to National Hockey League players participating in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics may be "ego from some people in North America."
Those comments from the long-time president of the International Ice Hockey Federation were made Thursday in Sochi, Russia to CBC Sports Weekend host Scott Russell of CBC Sports, and broadcast Saturday during Hockey Night in Canada.
"Personally, I think that the players, they want to come, there is no doubt," Fasel said. "I have spoken a couple of times with Don Fehr, who is the director of the NHLPA, and on the side of Gary [Bettman, NHL Commissioner], I think Gary has no other choice, he has to come to Sochi."
It all left the Hot Stove Tonight panelists shaking their heads.
"You know … after that was over, I could hear heads hitting desks all over North America," said Elliotte Friedman. "Because Bettman has some issues … but they’ve worked hard on him to make him realize this is important. But I’m curious to see what that interview and those comments are going to do to the whole process."
Glenn Healy, now a CBC commentator but formerly an executive with the players’ association, agreed.
"It’s not going to help, I can tell you that."
Healy listed some of the issues still being discussed between the NHL, the IIHF and the International Olympic Committee that are sure to come up when the sides are schedule to meet later this month.
"Number one is access," he said. "And it is access for [NHL] doctors, things like having NHL.com be able to interview players, having hospitality suites for the NHL and their partners – that’s important."
Another key point, Healy believes, is financial compensation.
"Look what the 2010 Olympic hockey competition generated in ticket revenue —$61-million US, $8.5-million for just the last game," he said.
Finally, the international competition schedule has to be looked at, including playing a World Cup in the fall and whether to continue holding the world championships with the demand that puts on players.
"We have to think big picture, how are we going to grow this game world-wide and how are we going to grow this game over the next 10 years as a collective group of the IIHF, the IOC, NHL and NHLPA," Healy said.