CHEREPOVETS, Russia, March 12 (R-Sport) - NHL commissioner Gary Bettman will gain the same fame as a legendary arsonist if he sabotages the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics by refusing to allow the world’s best hockey players to compete, the head of the Russia-based KHL said Tuesday.
Olympic participation for NHL stars was left unresolved when the players and the league signed a new collective bargaining agreement in January, raising the prospect that next year could see the first Olympics since 1994 without NHL players.
KHL president Alexander Medvedev compared Bettman to ancient Greek arsonist Herostratus, who sought fame by destroying the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
“If there’s a negative decision? I think that if Bettman wants the fame of Herostratus then it’s possible, of course, to get it,” Medvedev said.
“It’s possible to enter history as a negative hero, but I think that the NHL will, in any case, take the decision to go to the Olympics.”
Medvedev’s comments coincide with a visit to Sochi by Bettman’s vice-president Bill Daly and officials from the International Ice Hockey Federation.
Medvedev said he had previously asked NHL management to consider allowing players to compete in more international tourmaments.
“I think that what we’re offering could be completely put into practice, and that’s four competitions in each cycle - the Olympics, two world championships and the World Cup of Hockey,” he said.
“It’s possible without breaking the calendar, without canceling NHL matches.”
NHL owners’ reservations about letting players travel to the Olympic center on their desire not to interrupt the league’s calendar. Ever since NHLers started playing at the Olympics in 1998, the league has taken a break to accommodate the tournament.
The annual IIHF world championships are held during the NHL playoffs and feature only those NHLers whose teams have been eliminated from the league.
The World Cup of Hockey was a tournament involving national teams and played to NHL rules that was last held in 2004.