Deadline, what deadline?
Despite the committee being quoted in October as saying Jan. 15 was a deadline for a decision on NHL participation in South Korea, an International Olympic Committee spokesperson said Friday there is, in fact, no firm deadline.
"There is no agreed final deadline, but we continue to work towards a positive outcome," an IOC spokesperson told ESPN via email Friday.
That matches with the responses to ESPN from the NHL, its players' association and International Ice Hockey Federation this week, which all said they didn't believe there was any firm deadline the IOC had imposed.
NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr has always maintained there was time past January to get a deal done, citing how late in the proceedings the Sochi 2014 agreement got finalized (July 2013, just seven months before the Winter Games).
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said Dec. 30 that the league was working on two schedules for next season, one with the Olympic break and the other without.
In the meantime, Daly said Friday via email to ESPN that there was nothing new on the Olympic front and there were "no meetings planned."
"It's interesting to hear that the IOC says it is continuing to work toward a positive outcome -- whatever that means," Daly said. "The fact of the matter is that we have never at any time received a direct communication from the IOC on the prospect of NHL Player participation in the 2018 Winter Olympic Games, and we still do not have the details of precisely how the expenses related to our possible participation would be funded as they have been in the past in the event we decided to go.
"In addition to that, and as we have said on numerous occasions, while those logistical and funding details are obviously important, absent there being some new and compelling reason for the Board [of Governors] to potentially reconsider the issue, there does not appear currently to be anywhere near the requisite support from our clubs that would be necessary for the league to commit to Olympic participation in 2018."
The next step in the process, possibly, will be for IIHF president Rene Fasel to present, in writing, how he's come up with the money to cover costs for players' travel and contract insurance for the Games. This Olympic disagreement began at the outset last year with the IOC saying it would no longer cover those costs as it had for the five previous Olympics.
Fasel has publicly said he has come up with a way to cover those costs, though the NHL and NHLPA are both awaiting firm details.
Still, even with that, as Daly suggested, it's no guarantee NHL owners will want to go.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman earlier this season made a verbal offer to Fehr of signing off on Olympic participation for next year as part of a larger international package that would also include the 2022 Beijing Olympics, two World Cup of Hockey tournaments, and some Ryder Cup-style NHL-NHLPA events, in exchange for the NHLPA agreeing to extend the current CBA three years, to 2025.
The NHLPA officially rejected the offer last month. Fehr then suggested Jan. 1 that the NHLPA would be willing to sign off on an international package outside the CBA.
It was perhaps a way for Fehr to try and put pressure back on Bettman and the NHL. The league commissioner, citing his team owners' general apathy for participation in South Korea, has sounded cynical about continued Olympic play.