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NHL Players Reach Deal for Winter Olympics Participation

League will break from its season Feb. 9-26 7/19/2013 12:20:33 PM Eastern

The National Hockey League and its players association 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 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 million 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. "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."

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