VANCOUVER, B.C. -- Will the National Hockey League be sending its players to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Solchi, Russia?
That's a very big question, and it's one NHL commissionr Gary Bettman says he cannot answer at the present time.
"The fact that we haven't said anything yet doesn't mean we are going, and it doesn't mean we aren't," said Bettman, who joined International Hockey Federation (IHF) president Rene Fasel for a press conference prior to the USA's 6-1 conquest of Norway at the Canada Hockey Place today.
Bettman made several references to the "balancing act" NHL participation in any Winter Olympics entails. The NHL, after all, ceases operations for two full weeks in the middle of February in order to release its players to their various national teams.
Were it up to Fasel, the NHL would be involved forever.
"For our game and for our fans, we need you, one hundred percent," Fasel said to Bettman. "It's nice to be needed," Bettman acknowledged.
Coming to Vancouver fell under the heading of "Duh."
"Being in Canada, being in Vancouver in Canadian games, that was a no-brainer," Bettmam confirmed.
But Solchi will present obvious logistical problems, and there is much to discuss. Among the things Bettman stressed was the fact that NHL participation in the last two Olympics took place under the auspices of a Collective Bargaining Agreement that will be replaced by a new one before the 2014 Olympics. The Players Association will have its say on the matter.
There is, Bettman said, no "drop-dead" date by which the league must decide. He did rule out the possibility of "cherry-picking" Olympics, saying we'll go here and not go there. "We will not be jumping in and jumping out," Bettman declared..
On the subject of the alarming disparity between USA and Canada and the rest of the competition in the women's hockey turnament, Fasel could only confirm that much work needs to be done to upgrade play, especially in Europe, where there are often cultural barriers that are not an issue in North America.
At present, Fasel sighed, "Canada and the USA are on another planet."