Updated: Monday, 24 February 2014 05:34 | By Agence France-Presse

NHL players in Olympic limbo

Canada beat Sweden to win the hockey gold medal Sunday but there are doubts whether they will be able to defend their title four years from now in Pyeongchang, South Korea.


NHL players in Olympic limbo

Canada's John Tavares receives medical assistance during the Men's Ice Hockey Quarterfinals Canada vs Latvia at the Bolshoy Ice Dome during the Sochi Winter Olympics on February 19, 2014 - by Alexander Nemenov

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said earlier this week the league has a number of real concerns about the NHL's Olympic future.

Bettman said more talks with the International Ice Hockey Federation and the International Olympic Committee are needed before they can allow the players to continue to take part in the Winter Olympics.

NHL owners find it difficult to stop for over two weeks in the middle of the season and are also worried about injuries like the one suffered in Sochi by Canada's John Tavares. 

But Canadian general manager Steve Yzerman said Sunday night that he would be disappointed if NHL players can't take part in the next Winter Games.

"I certainly hope that the NHL stays in the Olympics," said Canada's Yzerman, whose team beat Sweden 3-0 to claim the men's hockey title. 

"There are varying opinions; it's my opinion it's great for hockey.

"We're trying to grow our sport. The Olympics is the biggest stage worldwide for any sport, so I'm hopeful that we stay.

"I recognize there are a lot of issues in the National Hockey League, but I'm hopeful that we stay. I think it's tremendous for our game and I think this is tremendous for the National Hockey League."

Canada won the gold without forward Tavares who suffered a season ending injury in Sochi.

The 23-year-old New York Islander centre suffered a torn ligament and torn meniscus in his left knee when struck by Latvian defenceman Arturs Kulda in Canada's 2-1 quarter-final triumph.

Islanders general manager Garth Snow wants NHL players to stay home and he lashed out at the IOC and the IIHF.

"Are the IIHF or IOC going to reimburse our season-ticket holders now?" Snow said. "It's a joke. They want all the benefits from NHL players in the Olympics and don't want to pay when our best player gets hurt."

Bettman said the league has looked at holding other international tournaments, like the former Canada Cup, which wouldn't interrupt their season.

And he said the men's Olympic tournament isn't going to go away just because the NHL stars might remain at home.

"You are making it sound that if NHL players were not participating there wouldn't be a hockey tournament," Bettman said "There would be. It would just be a little different."

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