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Event could impact future Olympic participation for NHL players

Reporter: Jonas Gilbart 丨 CCTV.com

09-21-2016 15:59 BJT

This week downtown Toronto resembles the United Nations of hockey as the World Cup has returned. Fans from across the globe have flocked to Canada for the rare chance to see the best hockey players in the world go head to head. 

But what does this tournament mean for the future of NHL players in the Olympics? Right now, that question is very much up in the air, and as CCTV correspondent reports, the biggest stars in the game know the answer is anything but clear cut.

Sidney Crosby is no stranger to Olympic play. The golden goal for Canada in Vancouver followed up by another crown in Sochi.

This will be something people wil compare. Palyers will relate to many factors, timing, where they are. Facy is an ability to put on an event like this and probably makes the decision harder," said Sidney Crosby, Team Canada captain.

For the next generation, to not have the chance to play in an Olympics is unthinkable.

They've grown up watching and dreaming of being there and Connor McDavid for one is adamant. He wants to see the NHL do all it can to remain a part of the equation.

"For me personally, I've always dreamt of playing in the Olympics for me. The World CUp is aweseom. It's similar, but do I hope it takes over? Derfinitely not. I want the Olympics to bea n option for NHL guys," said Connor Mcdavid, Team North America forward.

Like most things, at the heart of this issue, appears to be money. Previously the IOC covered costs like travel and insurance on the multi-million dollar contracts these guys have signed, a price tag in the tens of million of dollars.

The IOC says however, the free ride is over. The NHL, for now, doesn't appear to be willing to pick up the tab so that would leave the International Ice Hockey Federation holding the bag.

They say they can't afford it. So with a January deadline looming, there are some big decisions to be made on. If the two can co-exist and if the money needed to send the NHL stars to South Korea will materialize.

"That's a question for people who will have to make that decision, to make the right one, if that's too much hockey or just keep one or spread the World Cups to every eight years instead of four years," said Zdeno Chara, Team Europe defenseman.

And all of this could leave players, fiercely loyal to their nation, in a very precarious position.

Do they leave their NHL club team, in the heart of the season to represent their country?

Russian superstar Alex Ovechkin says his mind is made up. It's the Olympics all the way.

"My decision is the same. It's a situation when you don't know what's going to happen, but obvisouly I said I'm going to play," said Alex Ovechkin, Team Russia captain.

And there is a growing sense within the hockey community that players like Ovechkin will indeed have to make this very tough decision.

Sources close to the situation have told us they expect South Korea to be played without NHL players, but they would return in time for the 2022 Olympics in Beijing as the NHL hopes to capture the imagination of the huge Chinese market and its potential for growth.

Adding to this belief is China's willingness to spend, to ensure they put on the show they want. The millions needed would not be an issue. The NHL bill would be paid, one way or another.

South Korea though could be a different story and a different Olympics on the ice altogether.

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