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Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson believes NHL’ers will head to Sochi in 2014

If the NHL does go to Sohi, I'd argue that it will place some of the strangest sporting bedfellows in history together. IIHF president Rene Fasel makes Gary Bettman seem warm and fuzzy, and he desperately wants to become a member of the International Olympic Committee. The IOC, well...They're so corrupt that they awarded the Winter Olympics to a sub-tropical location in Russia that had no facilities and is now $38 billion over budget (Sochi also happens to be the location of Comrade Putin's summer home).

Then Bettman and the NHLPA are added to the mix (and they want crazy things like medical and media access to players, and are daring to ask for a piece of the financial pie), as well as the various international hockey federations who want things to go "their way," and when you stir in the competing agendas and egos in the room, you've got a clusterf*** and-a-half on your hands.

Somehow, after almost a year's worth of negotiations, Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson told Sportsnet's Arash Madani that the sides are nearing an agreement that will ensure NHL participation in the Sochi Olympics next February:

“I can tell you that in all the meetings I’ve been in with those parties, the (International Ice Hockey Federation ), the (International Olympic Committee)– everyone wants it. Now we’re just trying to cross all the t’s and dot the i’s.”

Nicholson, along with members of his staff, and outside parties met Thursday morning in downtown Toronto, ensuring they had a blueprint to be fully mobilized should the deal be finalized to have NHL players competing at next February’s Olympic Games.

“It’s complicated. When you’re dealing with the IOC, they’re not just looking at winter sport. They’re looking at summer and winter sport, how those dollars are divided up,” said Nicholson. “The NHL and the NHL Players’ Association want to make sure that their players are playing in an environment that is safe. We’ve got to make sure we can get the players over there because of jet lag and making sure everything works.”

Travel was a key agenda item Thursday, and it is believed there will be four North American hubs, in different time zones, for players to fly to Russia from.

“It’s not like we’re playing in Vancouver. Sochi’s a long ways away,”said Nicholson.

Around the table Thursday, many issues were raised in the pre-press conference meeting. Insurance for the players remains a key topic, as is safety while in that region.

If you're unaware of the that lovely part of the equation, Sochi is approximately 200 miles west of Grozny, Chechnya; a little further away from Dagestan; it's closer to Georgia, the breakaway republic of Abkhazia, and the lovely little area that is Ingushetia; Turkey, Armenia, Iran and the fun fun fun oil-rich dictatorship that is Azerbaijan isn't far away, either.

There are about 50 ethnic groups in the Caucasus mountain region, none of them get along, many of them have either been at war or are at war with each other, and the viciousness of the conflicts between these groups over the past 15 years, never mind the last 500 years, makes what happened in the Balkan Peninsula following the breakup of the former Yugoslavia, genocides included, look manageable by comparison.

Security will be tighter than Putin's butt during the Olympics, but every yahoo in the region will be motivated to make some sort of statement during the Perfect Olympics.

Anyway, Mandani continues and reports that the medical details are being worked out. The NHL and PA want teams to be able to access their multi-million-dollar investments to assure that they're not being mishandled by international teams' physicians, and you can imagine how stickily that wicket's gummed up the works.

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About Kukla's Korner Hockey

Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.

Email Paul anytime at pk@kuklaskorner.com