It appears as though the 2014 Olympic games will include the participation of NHL players in its men's ice hockey tournament.
While nothing is official, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly stated during a meeting with the International Olympic Committee, Sochi organizing committee, the International Ice Hockey Federation and other key groups involved with negotiations that the league expects NHL players to play in the 2014 games, via IIHF.com:
"We are proceeding under the assumption that the NHL will participate in Sochi. We are still working on important issues with the IIHF and the IOC, and subject to our board of governors' consideration and approval, it remains the objective that Sochi will be the fifth consecutive Olympics with NHL participation and where the NHL shuts down for the duration of the Olympic tournament."
The NHL has already scheduled the logistics of how player participation will work.
The league will suspend operation on Feb. 8, 2014.
Half of the NHL's 30 teams will play on Feb. 7 and the other half will play games on Feb. 8. The players participating in the Olympics will be transported to Sochi by way of four charter flights that will leave from four North American hubs on either Feb. 8 or 9. The players will arrive in Sochi on Feb. 10 with a full practice day on Feb. 11. Tournament play will begin the following day.
The NHL will resume operation two days after the Gold Medal game on Feb. 25.
While the itinerary appears set, what remains unclear is how far negotiations have progressed.
Entering this process, the NHL expressed concerns about travel, insurance and media coverage. Daly outlined during the meeting that insuring the estimated 160-180 players participating in the games would cost around $3 billion.
In addition, the NHL is hoping to reach some kind of shared content deal in order to use footage/coverage from the 2014 games. As it currently stands, the NHL is not privileged to do so. Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby scored the game-winning goal for Team Canada in the Gold Medal game of the 2010 Olympics. The NHL has never shown that video on its broadcasts, networks or websites because they aren't allowed to.
Daly stated the league is hoping to have some way of promoting the fact that their players are playing in the Olympics, especially since the NHL is shutting down in order for them to do so.
The league will be sending seven referees and six linesman to Sochi in agreement with the IIHF. NHL and NHL Players' Association medics will follow every game, in addition to 12 NHL security professionals assisting the security staff.
Daly and IIHF president René Fasel both expressed optimism when discussing the prospects of the negotiations concluding with NHL players in Sochi. Based upon Fasel's statements, it appears the two sides are closing in on a deal:
"We are working hard to putting together the last pieces to ensure NHL players' participation in Sochi. We have some issues left, but I, as always, remain optimistic."
Neither side expressed a final confirmation date.
The schedules for the tournament will be released later in May.