SOCHI, Russia — Commissioner Gary Bettman reiterated the league's position that the NHL's decision about continuing its Olympic participation in 2018 in South Korea will be made some time over the next six months.
"I don't see why it couldn't be done in that time frame," Bettman said.
The NHL decision will be made in consultation with players, and NHL Players Association executive director Donald Fehr's timetable was less exact.
"It will take as long as it takes before the players are satisfied that they've talked it all through, that they know everything, that they've discussed it with one another, then they're going to want to discuss it with their families, they're going to want to know what the flights are," Fehr said. "They may say by the time we get to our meetings in July that they know enough, they may say discuss it with players when we get to November."
Fehr said he did expect it to be done with "all deliberate speed.But in a democratic organization, you have to do it at a rate that the players are prepared to do it," Fehr said.
Players have historically favored Olympic participation, and the logistics in Sochi have been so player-friendly that it is unlikely they would change their position. Even non-Olympians favor Olympic participation because it allows them to have an in-season vacation.
Money is not an issue. Neither the league nor the players are paid for participating. Players stay in the athletes village like other Olympians.
The NHL has been sending its players to the Olympics since 1998, but it has never had unanimous support among owners because shutting down the league to accommodate the Olympics has caused business issues for some teams. Plus, the threat of injuries has always been a concern.
"We have made it very clear that the decision that has to be made is a balancing act," Bettman said. "It's not all good. It's not all bad. It has to be balance."
International Ice Hockey Federation president Rene Fasel is a major proponent of the NHL's continued Olympic participation, noting that 2018 offers the NHL an opportunity to explore the Asian market.
"It's about consensus," Bettman said. "It's about what makes sense to the organizing committee, the IOC, the IIHF, the NHLPA and the NHL
The collective bargaining agreement between NHL owners and players doesn't address Olympic participation.
The NHL and NHLPA are also in negotiations to resume the World Cup competition.
"We see international competition on the horizon. It's really just a question of what the format will be," Bettman said.