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International Ice Hockey Federation does all but beg NHL to return in 2014

February 18, 2010 | 12:26 pm

Rene Fasel, president of the International Ice Hockey Federation, made it clear that he wants NHL players to return to the Olympics in 2014.

Gary Bettman, commissioner of the NHL, made it clear that players' participation in future Games must be weighed as a business decision by NHL owners, who don't like suspending their business for two weeks -- and that the issue must be resolved in collective bargaining with players as part of the next labor agreement.

Fasel stopped short of dropping to his knees and pleading with Bettman to make sure NHL players are in Sochi, Russia, in 2014, but he didn't stop short by a lot. He suggested the NHL can lose its All-Star break to create more time to send players to Sochi and said continuing to send players would enhance the game's growth.

"The effort to shut down for two weeks and play here is worth it," Fasel told reporters at a news conference while Bettman, sitting to his right, grew increasingly red-faced. "For our game, our fans, Gary, we need you."

Bettman, the red spots in his cheeks fairly blazing by now, smiled. "It's nice to be needed," he said, though his tone didn't match his words.

"If you look at these Games from 30,000 feet, they're all good. ... You have to look at the impact on our season. We're going to have to look at what we may need to do to improve the experience, particularly as it impacts the NHL season."

Bettman said that he met with International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge and Fasel on Wednesday and that their relationship is cordial. "The president, as has Rene, reiterated their desire to have us back," Bettman said. "The lines of communication are good. They're open. ... The IOC hasn't bid out all its TV rights yet. A lot of decisions have yet to be made."

More later at www.latimes.com/sports.

-- Helene Elliott in Vancouver, Canada

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