- © RIA Novosti. Vasily Konov
© RIA Novosti. Vasily Konov
MOSCOW, February 11 (R-Sport) - NHL Hall of Famer Igor Larionov told R-Sport on Monday he is sure NHL owners will let players go to next year's Winter Olympics.
The collective bargaining agreement that ended the NHL lockout last month left the question of Olympic participation unresolved, with many NHL team owners reportedly unwilling to stop next season and send players to Sochi 2014.
“I don’t doubt that the best Canadian, American, Swedish, Finnish and other NHL players will go to the Olympics,” Larionov said.
“Hockey is one of the key sports at the Olympic Games, and NHL players taking part is publicity for the league, and especially publicity in the territory of Russia and Europe.”
NHL players have been allowed to participate in the Olympics since 1998, with the league stopping play for the duration of the tournament.
Three-time Stanley Cup winner Larionov said the lockout would not affect the owners' thinking.
“The audience is interested in a good product that can be presented at the Olympics and this is the most important thing,” former Larionov, now a hockey agent, said.
“The NHL has competent bosses – [commissioner] Gary Bettman, [deputy commissioner] Bill Daly, the head of the Players Association Donald Fehr, the 700 best players in the world stand behind these people. The Olympics would be dull without them, but this won’t happen, 100 percent.”
Earlier Monday, USA Hockey assistant executive director Jim Johannson said he was hopeful of the national team including NHLers.
Sochi will host the world under-18 championships next month, the first major test event for the Olympics.
Qualification for the Olympics ended Sunday with the teams being drawn in the following groups for Sochi 2014:
Group A: Russia, United States, Slovakia, Slovenia.
Group B: Canada, Finland, Norway, Austria.
Group C: Sweden, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Latvia.