Logistics are the main issue in talks to get NHL participation in the 2014 Sochi Olympics, René Fasel, president of the International Ice Hockey Federation, said Friday in New York during a meeting to iron out insurance, travel and other problems.
Prior to the meeting, it was thought the major issue was who would pay for the increased costs (the IIHF paid the insurance for the Vancouver Games). Fasel, apparently, disagrees.
Sochi, Russia, does not have nearly as many hotels as Vancouver, and the city's largest hockey arena has 12,000 seats compared to the 18,890 in Vancouver's Rogers Arena, Fasel said, making it difficult to accommodate the number of guests the NHL players, teams and the league want to bring. The International Olympic Committee and IIHF are trying to limit players to one guest each. That would mean more tickets and hotel rooms to sell for the IOC, which seems to be where the problem lies.
"Vancouver is different than Sochi, in the hotels, the rooms, the tickets, the size of the arena," Fasel said. "The arena in Sochi is not as big, so the ticket requests are not as easy. We have to finalize it."
There is still no agreement in sight for NHL players to take part in the Games, but Donald Fehr, executive director of the National Hockey League Players' Association, said he remains "cautiously optimistic" a deal will get done, and would not say which are the thorniest issues. But he seemed surprised Fasel said logistics are the big problem.
"I don't like to categorize the issues that way," Fehr said. "Having said that, given the fact they are essentially building all these facilities new and you have size issues and so on, you have to work through those.
"[Fasel] will have to put his own level of importance on that."
The cost of insuring NHL player contracts over what is covered by the league's policies could cost as much as double the $6-million (all currency U.S.) thought to have been paid for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, thanks to a series of rich, long-term deals given to many players in the last three years.
Estimates for insurance and travel costs from companies vying for the business were given to all parties at Friday's meeting. Two sources said the projected insurance costs ranged from $10-million to $12-million, while one put the travel estimates at "$2-million-plus."
Bob Nicholson, president of Hockey Canada, would not say what the estimates are because "there's still work to be done on those numbers. They are up from last time and there are a lot of reasons they are up and we have to get that figured out."
Overall, Nicholson said, "I thought the discussion was positive, but there still are issues and we have to get through those."
Both he and Fasel said all parties would like to have a deal by the start of the world hockey championship on May 3, but that is unlikely. All parties plan to meet again in Russia next Wednesday when the world under-18 championship starts in Sochi.
Fasel said he remains optimistic about striking an agreement, although much work remains to be done. "Everybody wants to be there, I can feel that," he said. "It's just finding the common [ground] to how we can make this thing happen."