By Tom Degun

Ice hockeyJune 12 - National Hockey League (NHL) Commissioner Gary Bettman claimed he is hopeful of "figuring out" a deal for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics which will see the top players released to compete for the national teams at the Games.

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

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

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.

Bettman claimed talks are on-going between the NHL, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) with a view to a deal being reached in the near future.

"We're in discussion and working on time table for international competition," Bettman said.

"The first step is figuring out what we are doing with the Olympics, then we are going to take a look at World Championship participation and we are very much committed to bringing back a World Cup and doing it on a regular basis.

"Once we get the Olympics figured out, we will start focusing on a long term on the Olympic, World Cup and World Championship international competition calendar.

"These are all things we are intrigued by and think are great opportunities for hockey worldwide."
Gary BettmanNHL Commissioner Gary Bettman (right) and Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly (left) are hopeful a deal to release players for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics will be reached soon

NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly added that negotiations regarding Sochi 2014 have gone on longer than anticipated but said he is hopeful there will be a resolution soon.

"In terms of the Olympics, it is a little more of a complicated negotiation based on it being in Sochi and the physical location," Daly said.

"The IOC has been more actively involved than it has been in the past.

"The Players' Association has been actively involved with respect to logistics of players, families, guests.

"We continue to work at it.

"The parties have been in close contact in recent days and we hope to get together and get it hammered out in the near future."

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