By Emily Goddard

Donald Fehr Gary Bettman René FaselJuly 2 - National Hockey League (NHL) Commissioner Gary Bettman has claimed a deal to free players for the Sochi 2014 Olympics will be agreed "soon, very soon" after he attended a five-hour meeting with International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) President René Fasel and National Hockey League Players' Association (NHLPA) executive director Donald Fehr.

The Winter Games are scheduled for February 7 until 23 next year, spelling a clash with the middle of the NHL season, but a deal would see the top players released to compete for their national teams at a fifth straight Olympics.

"There are still some I's to dot and T's to cross," Bettman (pictured top, centre) said.

"René has to report back to the IOC (International Olympic Committee), Don has a meeting with his Executive Board beginning next week.

"So while we're on track and things are moving along, I think it's fair to say we're not quite ready to announce it's done."

The NHLPA executive board is scheduled to meet in Chicago on July 8 until 10, while Fasel (pictured top, right) is expected to take his report on the negotiations to the IOC and other national federations this week.

Bettman has been granted permission by the NHL Board of Governors to make a deal on Olympic participation without further board approval.

"We're on a compact schedule and everybody is working very hard," Bettman added.

"We seem to be pulling the oars in the same direction."

Fasel, meanwhile, said he was "very happy and pleased" at the progress that was made in the meeting.

"I'm confident that we will have a solution at the end," he said.

Fehr (pictured top, left) echoed those sentiments, saying: "Certainly from my end, while we have made a lot of progress on a lot of issues, there are a few I dots and T crosses to do yet.

"We have to turn it into final written documents and I do have to go back to my executive board as indicated, but things are moving along."

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