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NHL stars to return to Olympics in Sochi in 2014

Saturday - 7/20/2013, 4:34pm  ET

FILE - In this Feb. 28, 2010, file photo, Canada's Sidney Crosby leaps in the air in celebration after scoring the game-winning goal in overtime of the men's gold medal ice hockey game against the United States at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia. The NHL and the players' association announced Friday, July 19, 2013, that they'd reached a deal with the International Ice Hockey Federation for the world's best players to take part in the 2014 Games in Russia. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara, File)

IRA PODELL
AP Sports Writer

NEW YORK (AP) -- After weeks of tough negotiations, the NHL and its players reached a deal with the International Ice Hockey Federation on Friday to put the season on hold again so the game's biggest stars can compete next year in the Sochi Olympics.

Putting a stop to another season one year after the damaging lockout created a shortened, 48-game campaign was hardly an optimal plan for the NHL. But an agreement was made to allow the top players to take part in the Olympics for the fifth straight time.

"Our outstanding athletes take tremendous pride in representing their homelands on the global stage," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a joint announcement with the players' association. "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."

NHL players first went to the Olympics for the 1998 Nagano Games. Now they will be available to the 12 national teams that will comprise the hockey tournament from Feb. 12-23. More than 120 NHL players are expected to compete in Sochi while the league takes a break for 2
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