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NBC wants NHL back in '18

Canada forward John Tavares is helped up off

Canada forward John Tavares is helped up off the ice by a trainer during the second period of a men's quarterfinal ice hockey game against Latvia at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. Tavares is out for the rest of the Olympics with an unspecified leg injury. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey) Credit: AP

NBC conducted a media call Thursday to promote the United States-Canada men’s hockey semifinal and ended up fielding as many questions about the Pyeongchang Games of 2018 as about Sochi in 2014.

Such is the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the NHL’s interest in putting its season on hold to send its stars hither and yon in search of medals and at risk of injury. (Sorry to bring that up, Islanders fans.)

Fact is, elite hockey is an excellent way to get fans of mainstream sports interested in the Games, and NBC knows it.

“We can only tell them that this is our preference that they’re there,” NBC Sports Group chairman Mark Lazarus said. “As to what it might mean [if they are not], I can’t answer that question and I hope I won’t ever have to.’’

Unlike Russian players pressuring the NHL to participate this year, there won’t be much of a lobbying effort from the league’s Korean stars in 2018.

Still, analyst Pierre McGuire said, “Of all the players I have talked to in the National Hockey League over the last 15 years, I have not talked to one that doesn’t want to be an Olympian.”

New York Sports