It took far longer than expected, but the NHL, NHLPA, IOC and IIHF finally confirmed this morning that the NHL players will indeed participate at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
The NHL will be on break from February 9th to February 26th to allow those participating to get to Sochi and back, with the actual hockey tournament being played between Feb 13th to 23rd.
This will be the fifth time NHLers have participated in the games, with Canada winning gold in 2002 (Salt Lake City) and 2010 (Vancouver). The Czech Republic won in 1998 (Nagano) and Sweden won in Torino in 2006.
Canada will participate with 11 other countries, and appear to have drawn the easiest pool. The will play Finland, Austria and Norway as part of Group B, while Group A consists of host Russia, the US, Slovakia and Slovenia and Group C has Sweden, Czech Republic, Switzerland and Latvia.
Canada opens against Norway on Feb 13th and will be right back at it on Feb 14th against Austria. The will wrap up the preliminary round against the Finns on Feb 16th.
The confirmation of Olympic Participation also means that the much anticipated release of the NHL schedule is not too far behind, and could be as early as today.