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February 18, 2014

Future of Women's Hockey At Olympics Safe

IIHF President Rene Fasel, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA leader Donald Fehr held a press conference from Sochi on Tuesday.

It was an interesting presser as well as entertaining - Fasel and Bettman have an interesting dynamic and they kind of deserve each other. You get the feeling they are always trying to one up one another. Fasel said "There's nothing like an athlete winning a gold medal." Bettman quickly interrupted saying, "Except winning the Stanley Cup."

The best news of the day was Fasel's insistence that women's hockey will "never" be removed from the Olympics. Fasel, who is a high ranking member of the IOC says there is no imminent danger to women's hockey's future at the Olympics. As recently as 2010 IOC president Jacques Rogge warned that if other nations did not start improving the IOC would have to look at the sports future at the Olympic level. Fasel admits there still is a disparity between Canada/USA and the rest of the world, but "the game is growing." He also said he hopes to see the tourney grow to 10 teams perhaps by 2018.

Mr. Bettman said he would have been "distressed" if women's hockey was ever removed from the Olympics. But he also refused to commit to helping out the women's game in any way in the near future. He said the NHL has studied women's hockey but it "doesn't seem to be a framework that would justify from a business standpoint a professional women's league in North America." He did allow that women's hockey "is worthy of further consideration."

Bettman absolutely refused to bite on anything to do with the NHL's future participation at the Olympics. He basically said nothing has been discussed and nothing will be discussed in Sochi.

When asked he admitted that the NHL had asked about having hockey as part of the Summer Olympics - the NHL's off-season of course. That was 20 years ago and the IOC quickly dismissed it to no surprise.

Donald Fehr strongly hinted that the official return of the World Cup of Hockey will be announced shortly.

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