Somebody outside the box is going to have to save NHL Olympic participation

Ken Campbell
Crosby raises his arms in triumph after his lone goal of the tournament puts Canada ahead 2-0 (Getty Images)

PITTSBURGH – Whether or not the NHL continues to participate in the Winter Olympics will come down to dollars, “many, many, many millions of dollars,” according to NHL commission Gary Bettman. When the most powerful man in hockey uses the word “many” three times, you know it’s a significant chunk of change.

In his annual state of the union address preceding the Stanley Cup final, Bettman said the International Olympic Committee’s and International Ice Hockey Federation’s decision to not pay the league’s biggest expenses – contract insurance, travel and accommodations for player’s families – is an “easy showstopper”.

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Vlasic will have his plate full with a steady diet of Crosby

Cro-Vlas

PITTSBURGH – It’s become fairly commonplace for San Jose Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic to be staring into the eyes of the best players in the world. And after getting a steady diet of Vladimir Tarasenko in the Western Conference final, Vlasic is preparing to renew a battle with Sidney Crosby that dates back more than a decade to their days in the Quebec League.

When the puck drops for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final tonight, expect to see an awful lot of Vlasic on the ice at the same time as Crosby. It will be more difficult for the Sharks to get the matchups they want in the first two games, but not impossible. And Vlasic is ready to see a lot of No. 87 for the Pittsburgh Penguins over the next couple of weeks.

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World Cup Power Rankings: Take a wild guess who’s No. 1

Sidney Crosby  (Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images)

Now that the rosters for the World Cash Grab of Hockey™ have been finalized, we can now set about to devoting our energies to predicting everything that’s going to happen. After all, the tournament is only four months away and time is of the essence.

With that said, here’s our stab at World Cup of Hockey Power Rankings. Remember, these are Power Rankings and have no bearing on how a team will finish, so stop it with the hate mail and nasty tweets just because your team didn’t do well in this little exercise. That goes double for all you Team Europe fans out there, all three of you.

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Massive Russian doping scandal at 2014 Olympics allegedly included ‘entire women’s hockey team’

Jared Clinton
Yekaterina Smolentseva celebrates with goaltender Anna Prugova (Martin Rose/Getty Images)

Every player on Russia’s women’s hockey team at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi was reportedly part of large-scale Russian doping program that included “at least 15 medal winners,” according to the New York Times.

In a shocking report published Thursday morning, Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, who ran Russia’s anti-doping laboratory during the 2014 Olympics, told the Times’ Rebecca R. Ruiz and Michael Schwirtz of a doping operation that saw as many as 100 potentially positive urine samples destroyed and replaced with clean samples. None of the athletes involved in the reported doping program were caught.

According to the Times, the athletes who were part of the program took a “cocktail of three anabolic steroids — metenolone, trenbolone and oxandrolone.” The mixture allowed the athletes to recover quicker and perform better over the course of a gruelling Olympic schedule, Dr. Rodchenkov told the Times, and the drugs were dissolved into alcohol to both speed up the absorption and “shorten the detection window.” Read more

IIHF president says ’60 percent’ chance NHL not going to Olympics

Jared Clinton
Rene Fasel (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

IIHF president Rene Fasel has already said the financial hurdles standing between the NHL and International Olympic Committee could make the league think twice about sending its players to the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, but it may shock some to learn Fasel doesn’t even think there’s a 50-50 chance the two will reach an agreement that sees the game’s brightest stars play at the upcoming Winter Olympics.

In an interview with The Associated Press’ James Ellingworth, Fasel said he thinks a 50-50 chance is “very positive” and believes it’s more like a “60 percent (chance) that (the NHL) are not coming” to the 2018 games. The NHL has remained tightlipped and non-committal about participation in PyeongChang, but their decision may be coming sooner rather than later, according to Fasel.

While the league has been hesitant to announce a firm deadline for deciding on their potential participation in the games, Fasel told Ellingworth the NHL will likely come to a decision by the end of 2016 for scheduling purposes. However, the league waited until seven months before the 2014 Olympics to confirm they would send players to Sochi, so that doesn’t rule out the NHL coming to a final decision in early 2017. Read more

IIHF president says outlook ‘not really good’ regarding NHL participation at 2018 Olympics

Jared Clinton
Sidney Crosby. (Getty Images)

The 2016 World Cup of Hockey could be the closest hockey fans come to watching a best-on-best international hockey tournament as it appears the chance of NHL participation at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics may have become slimmer.

According to insidethegames.biz, IIHF president Rene Fasel acknowledged there are some new financial hurdles between the NHL and International Olympic Committee which could make the NHL hesitant about sending players for the 2018 games. Namely, the IOC has reportedly elected not to pay transportation or insurance costs to have the NHL athletes at the games.

“We had a meeting with the NHL last week and the prognosis is not really good,” Fasel told insidethegames. “Our wish is to have the best players. [But the IOC] not covering the cost as they did at the last five Olympic Games puts us in a difficult financial situation. We still have challenges — it is even more difficult than before.” Read more

A coach’s challenge might have changed history for Flyers and Pat Quinn

Pat Quinn  (Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

Sadly, we cannot ask Pat Quinn what he thinks of the NHL’s implementation of a coach’s challenge for offside calls. As it was with almost any subject from World War II strategy to the neutral zone trap, it would have been very interesting to hear the former coaching great’s perspective on it.

Your trusty correspondent has been covering this game for almost 30 years and they have never seen a coach who had a deeper disdain for officials than Quinn did. And the roots of that go back to May 24, 1980. And if you want to talk about how one of these overturned calls can change a game or a series, consider the fact that not one, but two were not overturned that day had an enormous impact on a series, a career and a legacy.

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Why a top Quebec goalie prospect played in the Toronto suburbs

Ryan Kennedy
Alexis Gravel (photo by Ryan Kennedy)

Minor hockey is getting very complicated. At the top levels, the battle for talent is constant and the CHL’s feeder leagues don’t just involve local kids – you also have international flavor. For example, Russian-born player Nikita Korostelev, the Toronto Maple Leafs prospect who currently skates with the OHL’s Sarnia Sting, was not considered an “import” by the league, because he played two years of minor hockey for the Toronto Jr. Canadiens. This year, the same squad boasts several Russian-born players, including Kirill Nizhnikov, who is expected to go very high in the OHL draft.

And at the OHL Cup, the victorious York-Simcoe Express were backstopped by goalie Andrei Berezinskiy, himself Moscow-born.

Which brings us to Alexis Gravel, who competed at that same tournament with the Mississauga Senators. A 6-foot-2, 195-pound netminder with great athleticism and a dad who played pro, Gravel would be a dream for any OHL team – but they can’t have him.

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