Although a preliminary schedule for the 2006 Olympic men's ice hockey tournament in Turin, Italy, was announced over the weekend, it is still unknown whether players from the NHL will participate.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has maintained that the league's labor situation -- today is the 20th day of an owners' lockout threatening to wipe out the 2004-05 season -- would have to be settled in adequate time for the league to allow a two-week hiatus during the season. If the entire season is wiped out, it is believed the league will be wary about allowing such a break while trying to reestablish a connection with its fans.

"It remains unclear" whether NHL players will be allowed to compete in the Olympics, said NHL spokeswoman Bernadette Mansur. "There's so much that still needs to be worked out at the moment."

The Olympic tournament will have a compact 12-day schedule to accommodate the NHL. International Ice Hockey Federation President Rene Fasel has said NHL players would be welcomed even on short notice.

Defending men's gold medalist Canada is slated to face host Italy on the opening day of the tournament, Feb. 15 at the 10,500-seat Palasport Olympico, according the IIHF Web site.

-- Tarik El-Bashir