NHL players will compete in the 2014 Olympics, and the agreement reached means the long-awaited release of the NHL schedule for 2013-14 is expected to happen later today. The Olympic break will start Feb. 9 and NHL play will resume Feb. 26.
Per a news release:
The National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA) and the National Hockey League (NHL) announced today that an agreement has been reached with the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) to secure participation of NHL players in the upcoming 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.
NHL players will be available to the 12 participating IIHF Member National Associations for the men’s Olympic ice hockey tournament (February 12 – 23, 2014). This will mark the fifth consecutive time dating back to Nagano 1998 that NHL players have participated in the Olympics. More than 120 NHL players are expected to compete for their respective nations in Sochi.
“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 Wild should be well represented in the Olympics. It could have as many eight players participate. Zach Parise, a captain contender, and Ryan Suter are shoo-ins to play for the United States, while Jason Pominville, born in Canada but with dual citizenship, is a roster contender.
Mikko Koivu should captain Finland, while Niklas Backstrom and Mikael Granlund are contenders. Nino Niederreiter is a shoo-in for Switzerland, while Jonas Brodin has already been invited to Sweden’s summer Olympic camp.
Parise and Suter won silver at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, while Koivu and Backstrom won bronze and silver respectively in 2010 and 2006 in Turin, Italy. Backstrom turns 36 on Feb. 13. With Pekka Rinne and Antti Niemi also options for Finland, Backstrom could be a longshot unless there’s injuries.