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Hockey official worried NHL won’t play in 2018 Olympics

Rene Fasel ispresident of the International Ice Hockey Federation.AP

SOCHI, Russia — The head of ice hockey’s international body says there’s a strong possibility NHL players won’t be competing at the next Winter Olympics.

International Ice Hockey Federation president Rene Fasel puts the chances at 60 percent that the NHL will decline to go to the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, because of a lack of money to cover player insurance.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Fasel said the IOC has canceled its contribution to player travel and insurance costs for Pyeongchang, leaving the IIHF facing a $10 million shortfall and ‘‘begging’’ for money around the world.

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‘‘It’s always difficult to get (to) the Olympics, the games,’’ he said. ‘‘And now with some problems on our side, 50-50 is very positive. I would be more 60 percent that they are not coming.’’

Negotiations over finances are common in the lead-up to Olympic hockey tournaments. For the 2014 tournament in Sochi, Russia, the NHL’s participation was assured only in July 2013, seven months before the games. But the IOC’s refusal to cover player insurance adds an additional dimension for 2018.

While the IOC gives the IIHF around $40 million of revenue each Olympics, Fasel insists that money is earmarked for developing hockey and wants national Olympic committees and hockey federations to plug the gap.

The IOC pulled its extra subsidy because its leaders are ‘‘a bit scared that other (sports) federations will come and also ask for some compensation for traveling and insurance,’’ said Fasel, who is also an IOC member and serves on its rule-making executive board.

Fasel said the end of this year is the deadline to reach a deal because of the NHL’s need to draw up a calendar for the Olympic season.

‘‘If you don’t have the best, (the Olympics) will be a different competition for sure,’’ he said, but warned: ‘‘At the end somebody has to pay. That’s the question. On my side I will do everything possible to make it happen.’’

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Fasel also dismissed the suggestion that the NHL’s revived World Cup of Hockey could offer some players less incentive to demand to be allowed to play at the Olympics.

‘‘There is nothing like the Olympics,’’ he said. ‘‘I think for an athlete to win the gold medal is so different from winning the Stanley Cup. You can win the Stanley Cup every year.’’