NHL Players Will Be Part of the 2014 Winter Olympics

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Parts of the country are in the grip of a scorching heat wave. So what better time to talk a little hockey!

This afternoon, the NHL announced that it had reached a deal with the NHLPA to allow players to take part in the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. Everyone — players, coaches, owners, fans — expected NHL involvement in the Olympics. But a bunch of issues, such as how long the NHL season would shut down for the Olympics, hung up negotiations between the league, players association, International Olympic Committee and International Ice Hockey Federation.

With the deal finally done, we know that the NHL will stop its regular season play between February 9 and February 26 to allow players to compete on their national teams. Twelve countries will participate in the men's tournament: Russia, Solvenia, Solvakia, the US, Austria, Canada, Finland, Norway, Czech Republic, Latvia, Switzerland and Sweden. The NHL has a complete breakdown of the preliminary schedule of games.

"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 Players are very pleased that an agreement has been reached that will allow the world's best hockey players to compete at the Winter Games in February," added Don Fehr, NHLPA Executive Director. "Having the opportunity to wear their nation's sweater in Sochi is something the players look forward to."

We're about seven months away from exciting international hockey. But it's not too early to start putting dream teams together. So put on your general manager hat and put your rosters together. If you were putting together an Olympic team, what country would you represent and who would be on your squad. Let us know in the comments section below!

nhl players 2014 sochi winter olympics

Photo: Bobby Ryan of the United States celebrates after he scored the first goal during the ice hockey men's preliminary game between USA and Switzerland on day 5 of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics at Canada Hockey Place on February 16, 2010 in Vancouver, Canada.  (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)