The Olympic Clock Is Ticking For NHL Players

Rene Fasel, president of the IIHF, speaks at the 2010 Winter OlympicsRene Fasel, president of the IIHF, speaks at the 2010 Winter OlympicsThere are two sides to every story and Rene Fasel had an opportunity to speak his piece regarding the continued participation of NHL players at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman will have an opportunity to express the views of his bosses, the NHL owners, on Wednesday.

Fasel, the president of the International Ice Hockey Federation, is a long-time advocate of using the Olympic arena as a showcase of the "best against the best." That includes not only at the Olympics but also World Championships as well as future World Cups.

"We play for the fans and we have to give them the opportunity to see the best against the best," Fasel said during a Q&A session on Tuesday afternoon at the World Hockey Summit in Toronto.

"Still, we have to be careful of not having players play too many games."

According to Brian Burke, general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs as well as the 2010 U.S. Olympic Team, there is no timetable for the league to commit its players for Sochi.

"It has to be a part of the next collective bargaining agreement, but right now there is no timetable," said Burke, who is one of the hosts for the summit.U.S. & Canada face off in the 2010 Olympic gold medal game. Both teams were filled with NHL players.U.S. & Canada face off in the 2010 Olympic gold medal game. Both teams were filled with NHL players.

The success of the Olympic hockey tournament reenforced Fasel's commitment to continue what he helped usher back in 1998 when NHL players first competed on Olympic ice in Nagano, Japan.

One thing that did change was Fasel's opinion of whether the tournament should be held on an NHL-sized ice sheet or an Olympic sheet, which is 13.5 feet wider. The Vancouver Games were the first Olympics held on NHL ice.

"After Vancouver I would say that I like the smaller ice very much," Fasel said. "I was skeptical at first but the intensity of all the games was great for hockey fans."

While the World Hockey Summit brings together a who's who of hockey from around the world for the purpose of working together to promote the growth of the game, Fasel was not ready to see the powerful NHL increase its footprint in Europe.

There has been a great deal of debate, especially in Canada, of when there is a Europe division of the NHL. Fasel said such an expansion would be detrimental to the numerous European leagues, and ultimately their fans.

"When I hear all this talk about (NHL expansion) I say 'good luck, try to come," Fasel said. "As long as I am sitting in my chair (as president of the IIHF) I won't allow that to happen."

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