Toronto, Canada – By Steve Ginsburg
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The National Hockey League will not decide for several years if it will allow its players to participate in the 2014 Sochi Olympics, Commissioner Gary Bettman said Tuesday.
At that time, the league and its players union will decide whether playing on the "world's biggest sporting platform" outweighs the disruption of shutting the NHL season down for two weeks, Bettman said.
NHL players will participate in the Vancouver Games in February but the wavering about Sochi has angered some players who want to represent their native country.
"The Olympics is a great platform," Bettman told the Reuters Global Media Summit.
"I take full credit and responsibility -- and blame -- for the fact that we go to the Olympics in the first place, because we have to do it in the middle of our season."
"When you're in Salt Lake City (site of the 2002 Games) and you're in North American time zones, the media coverage works pretty good," he said. "It works in Vancouver.
"But when you're halfway around the world, you question how good the coverage is."
"Our games are going to be played between four in the morning and two in the afternoon," he said. "Doesn't mean you don't go. But you now have to weigh the benefit of being there and that kind of exposure with the burden it brings."
With the NHL boasting players from 22 countries, some teams would get hit hard, while others would hardly be affected, Bettman added.
"And the team with the dozen Olympians comes back after the break a little more banged up, a little more tired. The team with one or two (Olympic) players, with the bulk of its roster having been on vacation for two weeks, is well-rested.
"That affects, to some extent, the competitiveness of the balance of our season."
(Editing by Ian Ransom)