After months of anticipation, hockey fans can finally breathe easy.
The NHL will be at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
The NHL and NHLPA announced the agreement to allow NHL players to represent their respective countries on Friday after a period of negotiation. NHL participation in the Olympics was a topic of last fall’s lockout, but, with the agreement, hockey fans finally have the guarantee that the best players in the world will be on the ice for the international event.
“The National Hockey League features the most international player population in professional sports, and our outstanding athletes take tremendous pride in representing their homelands on the global stage,” said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman in a press release. “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.”
The NHL season will take a two-week break from Feb. 9-26. The men's tournament in Sochi is scheduled to take place from Feb. 12-23.
“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,” said Don Fehr, NHLPA Executive Director, in the press release. “Having the opportunity to wear their nation’s sweater in Sochi is something the players look forward to.”
For the Americans, the tournament comes at a high point in its international competition. The U.S. Olympic Men’s Ice Hockey Team won the silver medal at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, B.C. This past May, the Men’s National Team won the bronze medal at the IIHF World Championships in Stockholm, Sweden.
Dan Bylsma of the Pittsburgh Penguins has been selected to coach the team, while David Poile of the Nashville Predators is the team’s general manager. They will get their first look at the potential player pool during the USA Hockey orientation camp in Arlington, Va. during the last week of August.
Team USA is in Group A with Slovenia, Slovakia and host team Russia. The Americans are scheduled to play their first game of the tournament on Feb. 13 at 7:30 a.m. EST against Slovakia.