NEW YORK (AP) — NHL players are just a slap shot away from returning to the Olympics next year.
While a deal hasn't been reached yet between the NHL, the union and the International Ice Hockey Federation, to send the league's players to Sochi, a long meeting Monday pushed the sides much closer to an agreement.
"Things are moving along," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said.
Bettman, union leader Donald Fehr and IIHF President Rene Fasel met for more than five hours Monday at league headquarters to work on a deal that would allow NHL players to compete at the 2014 games in Russia. This would be the fifth Olympics for the NHL.
Not everything has been agreed to and the various sides need to meet internally to sign off on any pact. Still, Bettman called Monday's session a "constructive meeting," adding there are still "some I's to dot and T's to cross."
"I think it's fair to say that we're not quite ready to announce it's done," Bettman said.
Fasel headed to the airport following the meeting and planned to get together with various international groups beginning on Tuesday. Fehr will brief the players during multiday union executive board meetings next week.
"We had a very constructive meeting," Fasel said. "I am very happy and pleased. I have to go back also to my federation and to other national federations, especially back to the IOC, to make a report. I am confident that we will have a solution at the end."
When pressed for a timeline to get a deal done, Bettman responded with an emphatic, "Soon. Very soon."
"We're on a compact schedule," Bettman added. "Everybody is working very hard and we seem to be pulling the oars in the same direction."