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NHL expects ruling on 2018 within six months

The U.S. men's hockey team goaltender Ryan Miller sits on the bench during a team USA practice at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics February 11
The U.S. men's hockey team goaltender Ryan Miller sits on the bench during a team USA practice at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics February 11

By Frank Pingue

SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - A decision on whether to send National Hockey League players to the 2018 Olympics will be made in about six months, the NHL said on Tuesday.

It took nearly four years of intense negotiations with the International Olympic Committee before the NHL finally agreed to shut down its league for two weeks so its players could compete in the Sochi Games.

But NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told reporters gathered in Russia for the 12-team men's ice hockey tournament that he expects a much quicker resolution regarding the Pyeongchang Winter Games in South Korea.

"It should not take all that long, but I would have said the same thing coming out of 2010," Daly said on the eve of the men's competition.

"We will have a broader discussion with the players' association on international competition and what we are doing internationally.

"That discussion is under way so I would anticipate a quick resolution in respect to the Olympics, maybe six months."

Key sticking points during the last round of negotiations focused on insurance, travel, access to players and hospitality for players' and owners' families.

While those same issues are likely to be on the table in the coming months, Daly also seemed to suggest that shutting down the NHL so players can compete in the Olympics may not make sense considering the growth in the league.

The NHL has a much higher profile and is more successful as a business model now than when its players first competed in the Olympics at the 1998 Nagano Games, two factors Daly said will be considered in making the decision regarding 2018.

"We are much more visible on the worldwide stage so we are at a different stage in our evolution and development than we were in 1998," said Daly.

"That is a factor that you throw into the mix when you consider whether the Olympics makes sense for you going forward."

Growing the NHL brand in Asia is a key part of the league's business plan, but that does not make participation in the 2018 Pyeongchang Games, or any other future Olympics, a guarantee.

"There are a lot of negatives that come along with the Olympics," said Daly.

"The fact is we are guests here and it is not our tournament and it is someone else's tournament. In terms of making it as good as it can be, we do not have control over that. There are positive and negatives."

(Editing by Ed Osmond)

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