AP Sports Writer
TOKYO (AP) - The International Ice Hockey Federation is operating on the assumption that NHL players will take part in the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
"We've prepared everything with the idea that NHL players will be there," IIHF President Rene Fasel said Friday. "We've decided about the format and expect them to be there."
Fasel was re-elected to another four-year term as president at the IIHF's general congress in Tokyo.
Just 16 months before the 2014 Sochi Games, NHL players are not certain to compete in the two-week tournament in Russia run by the IIHF. Fasel said the tournament will start a day later than the 2010 games in Vancouver.
"We decided to start on Wednesday instead of Tuesday," Fasel said. "In Vancouver, we started on Tuesday but the players will need more time to travel to Russia. It will mean less rest between games but we have to start on Wednesday."
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has said no decision is imminent about possibly shutting down for two weeks to accommodate an Olympics in which some games would be played in the middle of the night in North America, thus affecting TV viewership and interest.
Before the NHL makes up its mind, a collective bargaining agreement between owners and players must be negotiated. The NHL locked out its players on Sept. 16 when talks broke down. The two sides plan to meet again Friday.
Russian player Alex Ovechkin, one of the NHL's signature stars, is threatening to play in Sochi no matter what the NHL does.
Fasel said the NHL could decide as late as January not to come but the tournament will go ahead.
"We'll play the tournament anyway," Fasel said. "There are not only 750 NHL players playing hockey in the world."
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