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MOSCOW, April 4. /TASS/. The Russian Ice Hockey Federation (RIHF) treats with proper respect a decision by the US-based National Hockey League (NHL) to pull out of the 2018 Winter Olympics, RIHF President Vladislav Tretiak told TASS on Tuesday.
The NHL announced on Monday that it had decided against altering its schedule for the 2017-2018 season, meaning that international players bound by contracts with NHL clubs would not be able to leave next year to join their national teams to play at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games, which are scheduled to take place in South Korea’s PyeongChang next year on February 9-25.
"To be honest, we hoped that the NHL, the NHLPA (NHL Players Association) and the IOC (International Olympic Committee) will come to a compromise," Tretiak, who is also the legendary Soviet goaltender indicted in the NHL Hall of Fame, said in an interview with TASS. "The IOC major sponsors were interested in the high-level tournament at the (2018) Olympics, since millions of TV viewers are following the developments in the ice hockey competitions."
Tretiak said that the RIHF "is treating with respect any decision made on behalf of the NHL," adding that players for the upcoming Olympic hockey squad would be picked up among other professional ice hockey leagues, including the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL).
"We will be preparing for the Olympics using our own resources," he said. "It is good that we learnt about this (NHL’s) decision now since we will be making new changes to our calendar and introducing completely new approaches to the preparations for the (2018) Olympics placing the bets on our local players."
In its statement on Monday night, the NHL officially stated that: "We have previously made clear that while the overwhelming majority of our clubs are adamantly opposed to disrupting the 2017-18 NHL season for purposes of accommodating Olympic participation by some NHL players, we were open to hearing from any of the other parties who might have an interest in the issue (e.g., the IOC, the IIHF, the NHLPA, etc.) as to reasons the Board of Governors might be interested in re-evaluating their strongly held views on the subject."
"A number of months have now passed and no meaningful dialogue has materialized," the statement said. "As a result, and in an effort to create clarity among conflicting reports and erroneous speculation, this will confirm our intention to proceed with finalizing our 2017-18 regular season schedule without any break to accommodate the Olympic Winter Games. We now consider the matter officially closed."
The National Hockey League Players’ Association came up later with a statement criticizing the NHL’s decision saying that the league’s players were "extraordinarily disappointed and adamantly disagree with the NHL's shortsighted decision to not continue our participation in the Olympics."
"Any sort of inconvenience the Olympics may cause to next season's schedule is a small price to pay compared to the opportunity to showcase our game and our greatest players on this enormous international stage," the statement from the NHL Players’ Association said.
The association criticized the NHL’s authorities for not only prohibiting its players for playing on the international arena, but for building obstacles for the game of ice hockey on the whole.