IIHF president not closing door on NHL players at 2018 Olympics
Rene Fasel says 'it's never too late' for league to reverse decision to participate
International Ice Hockey Federation president Rene Fasel is not giving up on the idea of NHL players participating in the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.
"I'm a very positive person so I never give up," Fasel told a news conference Tuesday at the world hockey championship in Paris. "There is still some space, still some time where maybe we can convince [NHL commissioner] Gary Bettman."
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Bettman said last month that he considers the matter "officially closed" after negotiations stalled between the NHL, the players' association and the International Olympic Committee.
Fasel made headlines earlier this week when he told a German outlet that he was still trying to broker a deal to bring NHL players to their sixth straight Winter Olympics.
We don't have a better platform for our sport than the Olympic Winter Games, around three billion people watching.— IIHF president Rene Fasel on the chance to promote and grow hockey in Asia
"When I said I'm still in discussion with the NHL, I was mostly thinking about the NHLPA," Fasel said Tuesday. "I would say twice, three times a week I speak with Don Fehr. We try to find a way of, as I said, to convince Gary to change his opinion not to come to Pyeongchang."
Fasel's determination is fuelled by the belief that the PyeongChang Games and the 2022 Games in Beijing represent an unparalleled opportunity to promote and grow the game in Asia.
"We don't have a better platform for our sport than the Olympic Winter Games, around three billion people watching," Fasel said. "It's a unique opportunity for the NHL to be there. If they want to be global, if they want to brand, if they want to promote the brand, this is the place to brand.
"I really don't understand but this is the way it is. If Gary decides not to go to the Olympics, the fans will not be happy, the players will not be happy."
Time remains for resolution: Fasel
Fasel admitted that he's thinking about how the Olympic hockey tournament would proceed without NHL participation in Pyeongchang.
"We played before without the NHL, so we can do it again," he said. "We will have, anyway, a great tournament in Pyeongchang, with or without the NHL. It would be so much better to have the best players there."
Fasel believes there is still time for a resolution.
"I would say the latest we can do is maybe end of June, beginning of July," he said. "We have calendars, schedules for the arenas. But we will see, I never give up until the end."
Even when he was told that NHL sources have said that it's too late to reverse their decision, Fasel remained steadfast.
"It's never too late."