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IOC chief calls it a priority for NHLers to be at Olympics

2016 Winter Youth Olympic Games - Day One

LILLEHAMMER, NORWAY - FEBRUARY 12: In this handout image supplied by the IOC, International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach delivers a speech during the Opening Ceremony of the Lillehammer 2016 Winter Youth Olympic Games at the Lysgardsbakkene Ski Jumping Arena on February 12, 2016 in Lillehammer, Norway. (Photo by Al Tielemans /IOC via Getty Images)

IOC via Getty Images

There’s still no deal to send NHLers to the Olympics after today’s meeting in New York between the league, the players’ association, the IOC and the IIHF.

But there’s still hope of an agreement.

IOC president Thomas Bach called today’s gathering more of a courtesy meeting than anything else, conceding that no actual negotiations took place. Bach did, however, deem it a priority to have NHL players at the Olympics, as reported by TSN’s Frank Seravalli.

“This was a courtesy visit and there was a very good open and friendly atmosphere,” Bach said, per the Associated Press. “Hopefully this has prepared the ground for successful negotiations between the NHL and international federation. Of course, we all want see the best players at the Olympic Winter Games Pyeongchang 2018, and we know the players feel the same. Therefore, we hope even more that the international federation and the NHL will reach a solution to make the Olympic dreams of the players come true.”

IIHF president René Fasel added that it was important for Bach to meet with the league today. It was reportedly the first get-together to include Bach, Fasel, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, and NHLPA chief Donald Fehr regarding participation in the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.

This past weekend in Los Angeles, Bettman was sharply critical of the IOC’s decision to stop covering out-of-pocket expenses for NHLers to attend the Games.

“What I think has happened…you know, there were probably some owners over time who always thought the Olympics were a good idea, there were some owners who always hated it,” said Bettman, “and there were probably a bunch of clubs that really didn’t give it much thought until the IOC said we weren’t going to pay the expenses. And then I think it caused a number of clubs to say, ‘Well, wait a minute, if that’s how they value our participation, why are we knocking ourselves out?’”

No word yet from Bettman or Fehr regarding today’s meeting.

Meanwhile, the clock keeps on ticking...