Richard Pound has claimed the NHL should accommodate players who wish to compete at Pyeongchang 2018 ©Getty Images

Senior International Olympic Committee (IOC) member Richard Pound has claimed the National Hockey League (NHL) need to accommodate players who wish to compete at next year's Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

NHL players have featured at every Winter Olympics since first appearing at Nagano 1998.

But an IOC decision to stop paying transportation and insurance costs prompted a breakdown in talks between the two organisations.

Gary Bettman, the NHL's Commissioner, announced in April that their athletes would not officially be allowed to compete at the event in South Korea.

The International Ice Hockey Federation and the IOC are thought to be hopeful NHL players will compete at Beijing 2022 as they are keen to tap into the Chinese market.

Pound, writing for the Montreal Gazette, claimed he understood the economic argument behind the NHL’s decision but believes there is more at stake for the sport.

"The first is a responsibility for growing and promoting an exciting game, which is important for the sport, its players and spectators throughout the world," Pound, a member of the IOC since 1978, wrote.

"It is not sufficient for the NHL to be content with plucking the low-hanging financial fruit, but to fail to invest in the future of the game.

"The second issue is the NHL’s decision to actively prohibit individual players, who want to represent their countries at the Olympic Games, from doing so.

"Aside from being heavy-handed and an abuse of its economic power, it is disrespectful to the rights and dreams of those players. 

"While I can see that it might be legitimate to try to discourage such participation, I believe it is (among other things) bad business to forbid or prevent such individual choices.

"Again, one does not have to be much of a prophet to predict that the NHL Players Association will exact a significant price for the NHL’s intransigence regarding the players when the next Collective Bargaining Agreement discussions begin.

"That, too, is bad business for the NHL - all of its own making."

Russia's Alexander Ovechkin is among the NHL players to express a desire to compete at Pyeongchang 2018 ©Getty Images
Russia's Alexander Ovechkin is among the NHL players to express a desire to compete at Pyeongchang 2018 ©Getty Images

Pound called for his nation - Canada - and teams to push to allow players the right to represent their nations at Pyeongchang 2018.

Currently the Canadian men’s team, winners of the gold medal at the last two Winter Olympics, will consist of players who do not feature in the NHL.

Russia star Alexander Ovechkin, captain of NHL team the Washington Capitals, has expressed his hope players will still be given the opportunity to compete at the Games.

"We’ll hope I’ll be allowed to participate," he told Sport-Express.

"There’s always a chance."

Russia's Evgeni Malkin, who plays for the Pittsburgh Penguins, made a similar call last month. 

Players from the American Hockey League, a 30-team professional league based in the United States and Canada, will be granted permission to represent their national teams.

The mostly Russian-based Kontinental Hockey League have also confirmed there will be a break in their season to allow players to compete at the Winter Olympics.

Pyeongchang 2018 and the IIHF remain hopeful of reaching with the NHL over allowing participation of its players.