By Tom Degun

rene-faselJanuary 1 - International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) President René Fasel claims he is still confident that the world's top National Hockey League (NHL) players will compete at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics despite scheduling problems.

The Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics are scheduled to take place from February 7 until 23 which means a direct clash with the middle of the NHL season, where the majority of top players are based.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has not yet committed to altering the NHL season to accommodate for the Olympics despite the fact that there was a break in the 2009-2010 season for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics.

This is because Vancouver 2010 proved a major success in exposing hockey to a wider audience but the NHL fear that most games at Sochi 2014 will occur at times that are not ideal for a North American audience.

But Fasel, who is also an International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Board member, remains confident that the NHL players to attend the Games in Russia.

"As I have always said, we want the NHL players at the Sochi 2014 Olympics and we are working on a schedule where we are expecting them to compete," Fasel told insidethegames.

"It will be very difficult to adjust the playing schedule in the last minute so we are preparing things early.

"We are on track, we are looking good and we have two great arenas [the Bolshoi Ice Dome and the Shayba Arena] in place for ice hockey at Sochi 2014.

"It is unbelievable actually because it is walking distance for the athletes in the Village.

"It has everything the athletes could want and we also know that the Olympics are the biggest competition in the world.

"So I think the NHL players will want to attend for many reasons and we are expecting them to attend."

Bolshoy Ice DomeThe Bolshoi Ice Dome is one of two venues that will host ice hockey at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics alongside the Shayba Arena

Fasal, a Swiss dentist by profession who has been IIHF President since 1994, added that even if the NHL players are not released, it would not mean a total disaster as he said there will be a fantastic ice hockey competition at Sochi 2014 whoever is competing.

"Ice hockey is such a great game that whatever level you play, it is always exciting," he said.

"That is what makes are sport so interesting and I'm 100 per cent sure that even if the NHL players don't come, we will have a great, great hockey tournament."

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