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NHL, NHLPA reach agreement to compete in upcoming Winter Olympics

The Bolshoy Ice Dome outside Sochi will host Winter Olympics ice hockey games. (Alexander Nemenov/Getty Images) The Bolshoy Ice Dome outside Sochi will host 2014 Winter Olympics ice hockey games. (Alexander Nemenov/Getty Images)

The NHL and NHLPA announced Friday an agreement with the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for NHL players to participate in the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

NHL players -- more than 120 are expected to compete -- will be available for the Olympic men's hockey tournament scheduled to run Feb. 12-23, 2014. As a result, the NHL will include a break during the 2013-14 regular season schedule from Feb. 9-25 to allow its players to participate in the Games.

Final approval for the agreement had forced the NHL to delay releasing its 2013-14 regular-season schedule.

From NHL.com:

"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. "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 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."

The agreement includes the use of seven NHL referees and six NHL linesmen during the Winter Olympic games.

CASENEUVE: Where do the Devils go from here?

The Winter Olympics hockey groups and preliminary rounds schedule were also released.

The U.S. team will begin play in Group A along with Russia, Slovenia and Slovakia. Canada is in Group B with Austria, Finland and Norway. The Czech Republic, Latvia, Switzerland and Sweden make up Group C.

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