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Bettman: No Olympic decision is imminent

by Mike G. Morreale
There's no rush on the part of NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman to make an immediate decision on whether or not the League's players will participate in the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

"There's no timetable," Bettman told NHL Live! co-hosts Deb Placey and Billy Jaffe Thursday. "The good news is this isn't a decision we have to make for a couple of years. It's a decision we'll make jointly with the NHL Players' Association, the lines of communication between (the NHL) and the International Ice Hockey Federation and International Olympic Committee. We'll work our way through this like we do so many other important decisions."

Bettman and IIHF President Rene Fasel got together to discuss this and other topics on two separate occasions Thursday -- in an open forum with the media in the afternoon and then again in the evening during the NHL Hour With Commissioner Gary Bettman.

"It's more of a media availability; we're here (in Vancouver) and the media wants to ask questions," Bettman said. "I don't have any announcements and I don't believe Rene has any announcements to make. So this will be an opportunity to respond to whatever the media has on its mind."

The experience in Vancouver and how hockey is handled could go a long way to determining the NHL's future in the Olympic Games.

"What happens in terms of the experience itself (in Vancouver) is something that we take into account," Bettman said. "We don't plan one Winter Classic until we finish the one that we're doing -- we wait, we debrief and we see what we could do to improve it.

"These Olympics are going to be terrific. I have no doubt about that," Bettman continued. "We're in Vancouver, this is hockey country. But what is really going to be a determining factor going forward is exactly what we think we need to make the (Olympic) break worth it. What can we do to make the experience better and get the joint cooperation we need, and how to deal with the logistics of it all. At 30,000 feet, looking at the Olympic experience is great, but we get the complaints regarding the schedule that we have and the injuries because of the compressed schedule."

In order to work the Olympics into its 82-game regular-season schedule, the NHL shut down 17 days for the 1998 Nagano Games, 12 days for the 2002 Salt Lake City Games and 15 days for the '06 Games in Torino. This year, the League is taking a 14-day sabbatical.

Once the NHL season resumes, no team has fewer than 14 games in the month of March while the Atlanta Thrashers and Nashville Predators each play a League-high 17 in 30 days.

Bettman also opined when asked for his reaction on the fact fans were calling into NHL Live! to express their excitement over fewer commercial breaks during Olympic hockey games as compared to the NHL's regular season.

"That's a little hard to respond to because I'm not watching the games on television," Bettman said. "But this is one of the things we don't have control over. We bring in 140-plus players and we participate in the Olympics by stopping our season for two weeks, but this is the IOC's show, the broadcasters' show and the IIHF's show. There are a lot of things we don't have control over and going forward, it may be we need to be a little more involved than at least to this point we've been allowed to be."

Overall, Bettman, his wife and youngest daughter, are enjoying the Olympic experience.

"It's always great to be at the Olympics and when you're here for the two weeks, it almost seems like nothing else matters," he said. "We get to see tons of great hockey games and lots of people are excited about our games and about all the other events going on in Vancouver. It's a terrific city and they're really doing it right."

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