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Insurance issues could keep players off the ice at Canada’s Olympic camp

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Larry MacDougal/CP

Hockey Canada hopes to finalize plans for its Olympic orientation camp in August, but there's no certainty that players will be able to skate because of insurance issues.

Hockey Canada president and CEO Bob Nicholson said no determination has been made yet on whether players will be able to skate, but called it "difficult" based on the price of insuring all NHL contracts.

"Insurance is a big issue," Nicholson said in an interview Friday. "We got some quotes yesterday that it would be over a million dollars to skate. So if it's that type of dollars, it'd be very difficult for us to do that. But we're just starting to look into that now with the agreement being done."

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While the agreement to send NHL players to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, takes care of insurance during the tournament, individual federations are responsible for insuring contracts for orientation camps.

Nicholson said his hope was for Canada to begin camp Aug. 25 in Calgary. USA Hockey's camp is scheduled for Aug. 25-29 at the Washington Capitals' practice facility in Arlington, Va., and a spokesman confirmed players will not skate.

Nicholson expects Canada's camp invites and the announcement of the coaching staff to happen in the coming days. Mike Babcock of the Detroit Red Wings will reportedly be back as head coach, joined by assistants Claude Julien of the Boston Bruins, Ken Hitchcock of the St. Louis Blues and Lindy Ruff of the Dallas Stars.

USA Hockey already named Dan Bylsma of the Pittsburgh Penguins its head coach and David Poile of the Nashville Predators its general manager.

While Canada has not announced its coaching staff, preparations for Sochi have been underway for some time.

"There's been lots of planning," Nicholson said. "(General manager) Steve Yzerman and the management group have been evaluating players all year. We're in good shape. We're right on schedule for our planning purposes."

While some players figure to be locks, many roster decisions will take place early in the 2013-14 NHL season.

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"I think a lot has to do with the first half of this year," said Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, who scored the gold-medal-winning goal for Canada in 2010. "That's going to dictate a lot, and I think everybody always talks about different combinations and the possibilities. With Canada there's so many guys who could play for that team, but I think that the first half of the season will obviously have a big bearing on that, and we'll see who kind of starts well and gets those opportunities."

Olympic rosters are due by Dec. 31, so Canada's team might not take shape until well into the season.

"That'll all be really figured out in December," Nicholson said. "We've got such great depth, we'll have to see who's playing best in the month of December."

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