The NHL and its players announced Friday that they have struck an agreement allowing the players to participate in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
The men’s hockey competition, won in 2010 by Canada on a goal by Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby against the U.S., is scheduled for Feb. 12-23. It will be the fifth consecutive Winter Games with NHL players participating.
The Olympics will leave the NHL dark Feb. 9-26.
“The NHL features the most international player population in professional sports, and our outstanding athletes take tremendous pride in representing their homelands on the global stage,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a prepared statement.
"The decision to participate in the XXII Olympic Winter Games in Sochi was in many ways a difficult one, but one that we know will be well received by our players and, most importantly, by the vast majority of our fans and sports fans everywhere,” Bettman said
The NHL said it expects more than 120 of its players to participate for the 12 participating International Ice Hockey Federation teams.
“The players are very pleased that an agreement has been reached that will allow the world’s best hockey players to compete at the Winter Games in February,” Don Fehr, the executive director of the NHL players union, said in a joint statement with the league. “Having the opportunity to wear their nation’s sweater in Sochi is something the players look forward to.”
The countries taking part in the competition were grouped as follows: Group A: U.S., Russia, Slovenia, Slovakia; Group B: Canada, Austria, Finland, Norway; Group C: Czech Republic, Latvia, Switzerland, Sweden.
Schedules are to be released later.
Canada will attempt to become the first country since the Soviet Union in 1988 to repeat as Olympic champion.
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