Rogge will leave decision to IIHF head

MONTREAL -- The IOC and hockey's ruling body are leaving the door open for NHL players at the 2006 Turin Olympics.

International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge said Monday the decision is up to the president of the International Ice Hockey Federation.

Rene Fasel, the IIHF president, said he will leave the option in place as long as possible to make sure the sport's best players compete in Italy. Fasel reiterated the point he made this month at the world junior championships in North Dakota.

"On my side, I'll do my best to get the best players to the games," Fasel said. "And if we don't, we have a lot of very good players outside the NHL and we'll have a terrific hockey tournament."

NHL players have been locked out by the league for more than 4½ months, leaving the entire season on the brink of cancellation.

Rogge said having NHL players at the last two Winter Games in Nagano, Japan, and Salt Lake City was "a blessing" comparable to the U.S. basketball Dream Team's appearance at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona.

Rogge and Fasel were in Montreal for a speech by the IOC chief before he heads to Vancouver, British Columbia, to meet with officials of the 2010 Winter Games. Rogge stressed that all of Canada needs to get behind the games, not just Vancouver and Whistler.