By Michael Caples –
The National Hockey League and the National Hockey League Players’ Association announced today that they have an agreement with the International Ice Hockey Federation and the International Olympic Committee to ensure NHL player participation in the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.
The National Hockey League’s schedule – also announced today – features an extended hiatus during February to allow for its top players to compete for their countries in the men’s Olympic ice hockey tournament, which takes place from February 12-23, 2014.
“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,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said via a release on NHL.com. “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 will take a break from Feb. 9 to Feb. 26 to allow for Olympic participation.
“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. “Having the opportunity to wear their nation’s sweater in Sochi is something the players look forward to.”
Seven NHL referees and six NHL linesmen will be integrated into the IIHF on-ice officials’ crew that will work the men’s tournament. The Games will be played on an international-sized rink – 60 by 30 meters.
Team USA will compete in Group A, along with Slovakia, Slovenia and Russia. Canada, Finland, Norway and Austria make up Group B, while the Czech Republic, Latvia, Switzerland and Sweden make up Group C.
The U.S. will begin tournament play on Thursday, Feb. 13, when they take on Slovakia at 7:30 a.m. ET.
Team USA preliminary round schedule:
- Thursday, Feb. 13 – Slovakia – 7:30 a.m. ET
- Saturday, Feb. 15 – Russia – 7:30 a.m. ET
- Sunday, Feb. 16 – Slovenia – 7:30 a.m. ET