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The biggest challenge the NHL faces every time the Olympics come is the need to stop the hockey season for several weeks so its players can go. That became a bigger factor this time because of last season’s lockout that delayed the start of the campaign until late January.

“Although there were many details to discuss with our partners NHL and NHLPA, there was never any doubt in my mind that we would not continue the tradition from Nagano, Salt Lake City, Turin and Vancouver,” Fasel said in a separate statement. “The modern Olympic era is about sportive competition on the highest possible level. This is what fans around the world expect from a 100-meter race or downhill skiing and this is also what they are entitled to expect from our sport.

“It is the obligation of the IIHF toward our fans that the biggest sports show on Earth has the best players, and toward our member associations that they are able to select the best players that their educational systems have developed. I would like to thank NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA Executive Director Don Fehr for their cooperation.”

As part of the deal, seven NHL referees and six NHL linesmen will join the IIHF on-ice officials’ crews that will work the men’s tournament. It will be played according to the IIHF rulebook on the bigger international-sized rinks.

Crosby, who was left off Canada’s Olympic team during his rookie NHL season in 2006, never really doubted that NHL players would be back for the Sochi Games.

“I think everyone thought it was just a matter of time, working out logistics,” he said. “With it being a little further in Russia, I’m sure there was a little bit more work to do. I’m glad that we’re going, and obviously excited to kind of start the process.”

Soon enough he will shooting for a golden repeat.

“When you play for Canada, that’s the expectation,” Crosby said. “You realize pretty quickly that people come together that time of year especially. When it’s hockey even more so.

“You want to go there and find a way to win gold.”