NHL players confident security issues won’t block them from Olympics
Published Tuesday, January 28, 2014 2:14PM EST
Last Updated Thursday, January 30, 2014 3:29PM EST
NHL Players bound for Sochi say they remain optimistic they will be able to compete at the Olympics Games, after NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daley said Tuesday that he would consider pulling the league out of the Games if a "significant" security issue arose.
In an email to The Associated Press Tuesday, Daley said that “if something significant were to transpire between now and February 9 … we will re-evaluate.”
He added, however, that he didn’t “expect that that will become necessary."
Concerns about a terrorist attack at Sochi have been growing steadily after several European Olympic committees received threatening emails. Officials, however, have largely shrugged off the threats as hoaxes.
Daley’s comments sparked reaction across the league, with many players saying that they’re aware of security concerns but confident in the safety measures in Sochi.
"You heard about stuff in the news and it’s tough not to wonder a little bit,” said Toronto Maple Leafs forward James Van Riemsdyk, who will compete for the U.S. Olympic team. “But obviously they've reassured us that they’re taking measures that safety is their number one priority.”
Calgary Flames defenseman Ladislave Smid, who will play for the Czech Republic at the Games, says he thinks security concerns have been blown out of proportion.
“What I’ve heard from sources who have actually been there (is that) security shouldn’t be an issue,” he said. “There’s going to be so many military, so many police there that nobody should be worried … I think everything is going to go smoothly.”
Security expert Alan Bell raised the question whether it was appropriate for the NHL to make the comments in the first place, and whether they could actually encourage an attack.
“I'm very surprised they've done this because once this becomes a media story, the Islamists will automatically know all they have to do is perpetrate another attack anywhere -- not necessarily in Sochi,” he said.
Bell said another concerns is that if the NHL decides to pull its players, other athletes will inevitably question whether or not they should go to the Games.
Ken Holland, the current General Manager of the Detroit Red Wings and part of Hockey Canada`s management team, said the Canadian team will take cues from the NHL and the leagues player`s association about what course of action to take.
"Until they tell us we're not going, I'm going to Newark and going to jump on a plane and go to Sochi," he said.
Holland said he remembers similar security concerns going into the Vancouver Olympics in 2010.
"I think in this world we live in today, unfortunately, there are times that you always have concern," he said. "But you have to trust that the people that are in charge of security are going to be on top of things."
Some players expressed disappointment that the issue of pulling players was even being discussed.
"I don’t doubt that action would have to take place if anything happened…but it`s unfortunate that this sort of thing is part of the conversation -- it`s overshadowing the Olympic games before it started," said Chicago Blackhawks forward Jonathan Toews, who will lace up for Canada in Sochi.
Many hockey commentators believe this will be the last time NHL players compete in the Olympics, as League officials have long questioned whether it is worth putting the NHL on hiatus for nearly three weeks every four years.
With a report by CTV’s John Vennavally-Rao