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NHL Takes Aim at IOC Again; Ryder Cup of Hockey Rumored

Another step to take NHL players out of the Winter Games is rumored in the form of a Ryder Cup of Hockey.

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We've seen the NHL threaten to remove its players from Olympic participation before.

The return of the World Cup of Hockey is set in stone, and it's the first real threat to take NHL players out of the Games since their return at Nagano in 1998.

The World Cup will be held from mid-to-late September 2016. It's not a scheduling threat to the next Winter Olympics, but a round robin, best-on-best international tournament (sort of) is as near as the NHL has come to replacing the Winter Games yet.

Rumor has it the NHL is feeling out another international tournament, one that would take place directly against the Winter Games.

From Scott Burnside and Pierre LeBrun at ESPN,

Colleague Scott Burnside last season told you about the NHL and NHLPA's ongoing talks regarding a Ryder Cup-style event in which North American players would take on European players.

While this concept remains very much in flux, the update is that more and more people involved in the discussions fancy a midseason Ryder Cup event, likely in Europe, during the 2017-18 season. The midseason part is what's new. I'm guessing, no, make that hoping, that if that's the case, there's no All-Star Game that season.

Forget the All-Star Game. A midseason international tournament in an Olympic year is aimed squarely at the IOC.

As it stands, a North America vs. the World tournament would be excellent theater. Canada is hockey's juggernaut, and the United States has become as a good a challenger for second place as exists. Pit that against the combined powers of Finland, Sweden, Russia and others and a Ryder Cup tournament sounds like a must-see engagement.

For the Penguins, that's a possible tournament putting Sidney Crosby, Phil Kessel and Kris Letang up against a World team that could include the likes of Evgeni Malkin, Patric Hornqvist and Olli Maatta.

Entertaining stuff, but could it really be a route out of the Olympics?

Alex Ovechkin has already plainly stated his intent to play for Russia at any Games, league sanctions be damned. There must be more than a handful of players in that same boat. That's going to create quite a PR headache for the NHL.

Short of that, this really seems like more of the gimme-gimme angling Gary Bettman and the NHL routinely engage in with the IOC. The league is steadfast in its pursuit of better accommodations and more money for the talent they loan to a tournament that pays the league nothing.

Whether you're a fan of the Olympics or not, it's hard to blame them. And if Sochi is any lesson, this back-and-forth could go on right up to the summer before the Pyeongchang Games.

I'm on