Russia’s KHL Stands Firm on Not Letting Players go to the Olympics
The Kontinental Hockey League is home to a number of United States’ and Canadian players who could represent their nation at the 2018 Winter Olympics. However, it looks increasingly likely the KHL will prevent those players from ever taking the ice in South Korea.
The league, headquartered in Russia, is even getting help from the country’s parliament to ban its players from competing in the games according to the CBC. The KHL is upset over the alleged doping allegations that is being conducted by its athletes. The country could boycott the games and prevent possible Olympic athletes from competing for their nation.
The KHL is citing the fact the National Hockey League isn’t allowing its players to attend as its reason to implement the ban. As a result, hockey fans will miss out on seeing the world’s best players — and now the KHL is embarking down a similar path — making it increasingly likely the hockey competition in South Korea will feature amateur players exclusively.
Why Aren’t NHL Players Going to the Olympics?
The NHL had allowed players to go to the Olympics between 1998 and 2014, bringing games to a halt in the middle of the season. However, the league withdrew support of players representing their countries on the ice in 2018. The U.S. and Canadian teams were supposed to be made up of KHL and college-based players. However, the KHL has thrown a wrench in the spokes of both National Teams.
The NHL’s decision not to allow players to participate stems from a disagreement it had with the International Olympic Committee over costs. Insurance and travel were just two of the problems the league had with players joining their national teams. The NHL is also worried its top stars would become injured and those knocks could prevent The League’s teams from getting the most out of their investments.
What is the KHL’s Problem with the Olympics?
The KHL is angry over alleged persecution of Russian athletes by the IOC. Russia feels its athletes are being targeted for doping, which the country’s sports bodies deny is taking place. There have been reports the Russian ice hockey team won’t be allowed to play at the games due to doping. It has also been alleged that Russian politicians and state officials have had a hand in the doping of athletes. It is a serious charge and one that Russia is extremely upset over.
In all, it seems the KHL’s players chances of playing in the Winter Olympics are being held ransom due to the Russians being unhappy with the IOC. The International Ice Hockey Federation has said the KHL must follow the organization’s rules. Those rules are to let players represent their home countries.
In a recent interview with TASS, IIHF President Rene Fasel reiterated the importance of the KHL releasing its players for the tournament.
“KHL, being a member of the Russian Ice Hockey Federation, has to follow the statutes and bylaws of the IIHF and they have to release foreign players and the national team players from other countries to play in the Olympics,” Fasel said.
In his interview, Fasel stated the IOC shouldn’t suspend the Russian hockey team and it should be allowed to compete. However, the decision on whether the team can play has not be made yet.
“We hope that the IOC will decide in favor of the Russian team going to PyeongChan,” Fasel stated. “In ice hockey, we do not have really big problems in doping and, regarding the McLaren report, we do not have any of the men hockey players being in concern.
“There is absolutely no reason to suspend the Russian ice hockey team,” Fasel said.
On November 21, Hockey Canada CEO Tom Renney signed a letter to the KHL asking them to allow its foreign players to be released for the Winter Games. Canada are the defending gold medal champions.
The puck will drop in Pyeongchang, South Korea on February 9, and it seems the debate over the KHL’s players being allowed to play at the Olympics will go down to the wire.
Written by Drew Farmer / @DrewMFarmer
Special to HockeyClan
Main Image: XXII Olympic Winter Games Ice Hockey Champion Team Canada celebrates their Gold Medal at the Bolshoy Ice Dome in Sochi, Russia in 2014. Team Canada defeated Team Sweden, 3-0, to capture gold for the ninth time in Olympics history. (Photo by sampics/Corbis via Getty Images)
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