Hockey power brokers meet for game of Russian roulette

Thu Feb 14, 2013 6:46pm EST
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By Steve Keating

(Reuters) - Ice hockey power brokers are facing off in meetings this week that not only could decide if the National Hockey League (NHL) takes part in the 2014 Sochi Winter Games but the way the International Olympic Committee (IOC) does business.

While the NHL is widely expected to return to the Olympic lodge and free players to compete in Russia, the talks that began on Thursday and will continue through Friday at the NHL's New York headquarters could be more far reaching.

NHL owners are seeking some form of compensation from the IOC for shutting down business for two weeks in the middle of the season and turning over their most valuable assets - the players - to the Olympics and occasionally getting back damaged goods.

The NHL had no comment on the state of talks. But it is believed the league, a Winter Games participant since the 1998 Nagano Olympics, wants to be treated more like a rights holder or an Olympic top sponsor such as McDonald's, able to trade on the Olympic brand to help sell and promote their product the same way the fast food chain uses its sponsorship to sell hamburgers.

The NHL also wants the freedom to use video and other media from the Games on their websites and has long complained about the access to players by team owners, doctors and league officials during the Winter Olympics.

The IOC, meanwhile, is approaching the talks with considerable caution, keenly aware that giving into any NHL demands would leave them on a slippery slope with the National Basketball Association and other sports looking on with interest.

During the London Summer Games, track and field athletes created a stir with their demands for a slice of the IOC revenue pie and the ability to make money from their Olympic participation.

'NO CHOICE'   Continued...