Olympic participation could be in jeopardy

GENEVA -- The Czech and Russian ice hockey federations again refused to sign a proposed player transfer agreement between the NHL and the International Ice Hockey Federation on Friday, jeopardizing the league's participation in next year's Winter

The two countries were given a 6 a.m. ET Monday deadline to join the accord between the NHL and the sport's world governing body.

If they fail to sign "then we could possibly face a situation with no agreement, where transfers between Europe and the NHL are not regulated," IIHF spokesman Szymon Szemberg told The Associated Press.

The NHL could allow its players to appear in the Olympics even if the Czechs and Russians refuse to sign. But it could use participation at the Olympics as a bargaining chip to get the two reluctant federations to fall in line.

Despite the discord, officials hammered out logistical arrangements for NHL players in Turin during a meeting Friday. NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly, NHLPA executive director Ted Saskin, IIHF president Rene Fasel and International Olympic Committee
executive director Gilbert Felli all took part.

Czech clubs insist the minimum amount of compensation the NHL pays European federations when signing players is too low. The Russian clubs would like to deal directly with NHL teams in determining player compensation.

With their clubs opposing the deal, both national federations declined to sign at a meeting in Zurich and are pushing for a better system.

Representatives of all seven European leagues -- the Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden and Switzerland -- attended the meeting. The other five federations have said they would sign the new proposed deal.

In the proposed five-year player transfer plan, the NHL would pay $12.5 million annually to a fund managed by the IIHF -- a $3.5 million increase from the previous deal.

The IIHF would distribute the money among the national federations and clubs that lose players to the NHL based on a formula devised by the IIHF and the national federations.

A player picked first in the NHL draft is worth $900,000, with each successive pick down to 30th decreasing by $20,000. Later draft picks are valued at $150,000 each.

The previous NHL-IIHF agreement covered player transfers, as well as NHL players' participation in Olympic, world championship and World Cup tournaments.