NHL Players Reach Deal For Winter Games Participation

The National Hockey League and its players assocation have reached a deal with the International Ice Hockey Federation and International Olympic Committee to participate in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

The NHL will break from the 2013-14 regular season schedule from Feb. 9-26 to allow for participation. The Olympics are scheduled for Feb. 7-23 and will be carried by NBCUniversal in the U.S.

NBC Sports Group chairman Mark Lazarus had previously expressed optimism that NHL players would be a part of the Games. Hockey is usually one of the highest-rated and most-viewed events during the Winter Olympics, along with figure skating.

NBC's presentation of Canada's 3-2 triumph over the USA in the gold medal game at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics averaged 27.6 million viewers, according to Nielsen data, making it the most-watched hockey broadcast in this nation since the 32.8 million for the gold medal-clinching USA vs. Finland 1980 game from the Lake Placid Olympics on Feb. 24, 1980. The "Miracle on Ice" USA-Russia semifinal game of that tournament averaged 34.2 milion viewers for ABC on tape delay on Feb 22, 1980.

"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 in a 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."