Bettman: 'Time is working against the Olympics'

NEW YORK -- Prospects for NHL players taking part in the 2006 Olympics are dwindling because of the ongoing lockout, commissioner Gary Bettman said Friday.

"If we don't have a deal by the time we have to schedule, I assume it would be difficult to have Olympic participation," he said during the Associated Press Sports Editors annual meeting with league commissioners.

"Time is working against the Olympics," he said.

NHL players played in the Olympics in the 1998 and 2002 games. The Turin Games will be held Feb. 10-26.

Union head Bob Goodenow met with the APSE group Thursday and stopped by NHL headquarters the same day to meet briefly with Bettman. They talked about the 15 or so dates the NHL has proposed to next hold a negotiating session with the players' association.

The entire 2004-05 NHL season was wiped out because of the lockout. Bettman said the sides were "probably a tad closer today than we were" when the season was officially canceled.

Bettman said the difference is basically "dollars and cents" while Goodenow said there were other issues separating them.

Steve Rausch, chief of sports performance for the U.S. Olympic Committee, said that in the event NHL players skip the Turin Games, the U.S. team would likely be composed of top-flight amateurs and skaters now playing in Europe.