IOC 'feels very sorry for athletes' after NHL denies Winter Olympics break

The NHL will not put the 2017-18 regular season on hold for the Pyeongchang Olympics, a decision the IOC branded "regrettable".

The International Olympic Committee says it "feels very sorry for the athletes" who will be unable to compete at Pyeongchang 2018 after the NHL opted againstputting a break in next season.

The NHL announcedMonday it will opt against facilitating its players' participationat next year's Winter Games in South Korea by refusing to place the 2017-18 campaign on hold.

It is a decision the IOC branded as "regrettable,"though the leagueremains confident a "very exciting" hockey tournament will take place.

"This must be a huge disappointment for the players who definitely wanted to play at the Olympic Winter Games Pyeongchang 2018. The IOC feels very sorry for the athletes," an IOC statement read."The decision is even more regrettable, as the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) had offered the same conditions to the NHL as at previous Olympic Games, where the insurance and travel costs were covered.

"The IOC, which distributes 90 percent of its revenue for the development of sport in the world, obviously cannot treat a national commercial league better than not-for-profit International Sports Federations which are developing sport globally.

"The ice hockey tournament at the Olympic Winter Games Pyeongchang 2018 will nonetheless be a very exciting one, because the players from all the other professional ice hockey leagues and their athletes will participate, and will be very much welcomed by their Olympic teams."

NHL players have been part of the Winter Games since the Nagano Games in 1998.

MORE: NHL's decision to bypass 2018 Olympics irks 'extraordinarily disappointed' players | NHL says it will not put season on hold for 2018 Winter Olympics

Capitals star AlexOvechkin, for one, has long vowed to play for Russia inPyeongchangin 2018 regardless of theNHL's stance on the matter, and team owner TedLeonsishas said he wouldn'tstand in the player's way.

The risk of injury is a key factor in the motivation to keep NHL players out of the games, particularly after Islanders captain John Tavares suffered a season-ending knee injury at Sochi in 2014.

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