The National Hockey League (NHL) and the National Hockey League Player's Association (NHLPA), in agreement with the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), announced today that the world's best hockey players will swap their NHL colors for those of their homelands when the League's players participate in the XX Olympic Winter Games at Turin, Italy in February, 2006 and the XXI Olympic Winter Games at Vancouver, Canada in February, 2010.
Marking the third consecutive Olympic participation by NHL players, the men's ice hockey tournament at Turin will take place over 12 days (Feb. 15-26), featuring a 38-game schedule involving elite players from the top 12 hockey nations. The tournament matches will be split between two new Olympic arenas, the Palasport Olimpico and the Torino Esposizioni. An estimated 2,800 accredited media are expected at Turin with Olympic television coverage reaching more than 2.3 billion people in 160 countries worldwide. NBC and CBC again will broadcast the Olympics in the U.S. and Canada, respectively.
Participating hockey federations are required to send a preliminary long-list of players (maximum of 60) to the IIHF Tournament Directorate by October. Final roster submissions (maximum of 20 skaters, 3 goalies) must be submitted no later than 24 hours before the start of the tournament. In each of the previous two Olympics, more than 120 NHL players competed for their respective nations. The NHL has perhaps the most diverse player demographic in professional sports with representation from 22 different countries outside North America.
In 2002, Team Canada led by Mario Lemieux defeated archrival Team USA, 5-2, to erase a 50-year ice hockey gold-medal drought. The game was the most-watched event in Canadian television history, as the CBC broadcast recorded 11 million viewers. In the U.S., NBC posted 38 million viewers for the game-making it the most-watched hockey broadcast since the U.S "miracle" victory over the Soviet Union in 1980 at Lake Placid.
In 1998 at Nagano, Japan, the Czech Republic won its country's first Olympic ice hockey gold medal by beating Russia, 1-0, behind the brilliant goaltending of Dominik Hasek. More than 100,000 jubilant fans turned out the next day in Prague's Old Town Square to celebrate and welcome home their beloved team.
The XXI Olympic Winter Games at Vancouver take place from February 12-28, 2010. Further details pertaining to the men's ice hockey tournament will be released at a later date.