NEW YORK, États-Unis - Les joueurs de la LNH participeront aux Jeux olympiques de Sotchi en 2014.

Il aura fallu des mois de délibérations mais la présence des joueurs de la LNH à Sotchi a été confirmée à la suite d'une entente intervenue entre la ligue, l'association des joueurs et la Fédération internationale de hockey.

Le commissaire Gary Bettman avait exprimé depuis plusieurs semaines son optimisme dans ce dossier. Mais tant que l'entente n'était pas ratifiée, la présence des joueurs de la LNH à Sotchi était incertaine, malgré le désir des joueurs d'y participer et l'engagement de NBC à titre de diffuseur des jeux.

«La décision de participer aux Jeux d’hiver de Sotchi était difficile pour plusieurs raisons. Mais une chose que nous savons, c’est qu’elle sera bien accueillie par nos joueurs et, plus important, par la vaste majorité de nos partisans et des amateurs de sport partout sur la planète.»

Ce sera la cinquième présence des joueurs de la LNH aux Jeux olympiques depuis qu'ils ont obtenu la permission de représenter leur pays en 1998.

La LNH devra interrompre ses activités pendant la durée du tournoi, qui se déroulera du 12 au 23 février.

Le Canada a remporté la médaille d'or aux Jeux de Vancouver en 2010, lorsque Sidney Crosby a inscrit un but en prolongation contre les États-Unis. Il avait terminé septième au Turin en 2006, a raflé l'or à Salt Lake City en 2002 et s'est classé quatrième à Nagano en 1998.

Quelques joueurs vedettes russes, dont Alex Ovechkin, avaient déjà mentionné qu'ils iraient à Sotchi peu importe la décision de la LNH. Le propriétaire des Capitals de Washington, Ted Leonsis, avait même dit qu'il donnerait son accord à Ovechkin d'y aller avec ou sans la permission de la ligue.

«Les joueurs sont très heureux de cette entente qui permettra aux meilleurs hockeyeurs au monde de participer aux Jeux d'hiver en février, a commenté le directeur exécutif de l'AJLNH, Don Fehr, dans un communiqué. Les joueurs ont hâte d'avoir l'occasion de porter le chandail de leur pays à Sotchi.»

Le Canada entreprendra le tournoi olympique le 13 février contre la Norvège.

Sept arbitres de la LNH et six juges de lignes seront en fonction à Sotchi, en plus des autres officils de la Fédération internationale.

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  • Sochi 2014 - One Year To Go

    SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 07: Ice skaters perform during the 'Sochi 2014 - One Year To Go' ceremony at Bolshoi Ice Dome on February 7, 2013 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Oleg Nikishin/Getty Images)

  • Sochi 2014 - One Year To Go

    SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 07: Acrobats perform during the 'Sochi 2014 - One Year To Go' ceremony at Bolshoi Ice Dome on February 7, 2013 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Oleg Nikishin/Getty Images)

  • RUSSIA-OLY2014-POLITICS-PUTIN

    People watch the fireworks exploding over the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi, on February 7, 2013, to celebrate the one year countdown to the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics opening. Putin vowed today Russia would justify expectations when it hosts the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi in one year, after ruthlessly firing an official blamed for delays in building infrastructure. AFP PHOTO / NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA (Photo credit should read NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • RUSSIA-OLY2014-POLITICS-PUTIN

    Participants of a ceremony celebrating the one year countdown to the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics opening perform at the Bolshoi Ice Dome rink in the Black Sea city of Sochi, on February 7, 2013. Putin vowed today Russia would justify expectations when it hosts the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi in one year, after ruthlessly firing an official blamed for delays in building infrastructure. AFP PHOTO / NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA (Photo credit should read NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • RUSSIA-OLY2014-POLITICS-PUTIN

    People watch the fireworks exploding over the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi, on February 7, 2013, to celebrate the one year countdown to the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics opening. Putin vowed today Russia would justify expectations when it hosts the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi in one year, after ruthlessly firing an official blamed for delays in building infrastructure. AFP PHOTO / NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA (Photo credit should read NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Sochi 2014 - One Year To Go

    SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 07: Ice skaters perform during the 'Sochi 2014 - One Year To Go' ceremony at Bolshoi Ice Dome on February 7, 2013 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Oleg Nikishin/Getty Images)

  • RUSSIA-OLY2014-POLITICS-PUTIN

    Russia's President Vladimir Putin (front L) and IOC President Jacques Rogge (front R) take part in a ceremony celebrating the one year countdown to the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics opening at the Bolshoi Ice Dome rink in the Black Sea city of Sochi, on February 7, 2013. Putin vowed today Russia would justify expectations when it hosts the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi in one year, after ruthlessly firing an official blamed for delays in building infrastructure. AFP PHOTO / NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA (Photo credit should read NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • RUSSIA-OLY2014-POLITICS-PUTIN

    Russia's President Vladimir Putin (L) and IOC President Jacques Rogge shake hands as they take part in a ceremony celebrating the one year countdown to the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics opening at the Bolshoi Ice Dome rink in the Black Sea city of Sochi, on February 7, 2013. Putin vowed today Russia would justify expectations when it hosts the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi in one year, after ruthlessly firing an official blamed for delays in building infrastructure. AFP PHOTO / NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA (Photo credit should read NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • RUSSIA-OLY2014-POLITICS-PUTIN

    A participant of a ceremony celebrating the one year countdown to the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics opening performs at the Bolshoi Ice Dome rink in the Black Sea city of Sochi, on February 7, 2013. Putin vowed today Russia would justify expectations when it hosts the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi in one year, after ruthlessly firing an official blamed for delays in building infrastructure. AFP PHOTO / NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA (Photo credit should read NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • RUSSIA-OLY2014-POLITICS-PUTIN

    Head of the International Olympic Committee's coordination commission Jean-Claude Killy (R) and Russia's President Vladimir Putin take part in a ceremony celebrating the one year countdown to the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics opening at the Bolshoi Ice Dome rink in the Black Sea city of Sochi, on February 7, 2013. Putin vowed today Russia would justify expectations when it hosts the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi in one year, after ruthlessly firing an official blamed for delays in building infrastructure. AFP PHOTO / NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA (Photo credit should read NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Vladimir Putin, Dmitry Chernyshenko, Dmitry Kozak

    Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, tours Olympic venues in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, southern Russia, Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013. At right is Head of the Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee Dmitry Chernyshenko, second left is Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak, who oversees Sochi preparations. The Games will take place in a coastal cluster where indoors sports such as ice-hockey will be held and in a mountain complex where athletes will compete for medals in skiing and other outdoors disciplines. (AP Photo/Natalia Kolesnikova, Pool)

  • Artists perform during a ceremony to mark one year to the start of 2014 Winter Olympics, in Sochi, Russia, Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013. Russia on Thursday marked the one-year countdown to the Sochi Games, which are considered a matter of national pride and a priority for President Putin. The countdown celebrations culminated later Thursday in a star-studded ice show at one of the Olympic arenas, attended by Putin and IOC President Jacques Rogge. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)

  • The shadow of a performer is cast on a board as spectators watch a ceremony to mark the one year to the start of 2014 Winter Olympics, in Sochi, Russia, Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013. Russia on Thursday marked the one-year countdown to the Sochi Games, which are considered a matter of national pride and a priority for President Putin. The countdown celebrations culminated later Thursday in a star-studded ice show at one of the Olympic arenas, attended by Putin and IOC President Jacques Rogge. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)

  • Employees of Liberty Mutual Insurance's Boston Headquarters, alongside Olympians past and present, took part in festivities, celebrating One Year Out from the 2014 Olympic Winter Games on Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013 in Boston. (Photo by Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Invision for Liberty Mutual Insurance/AP Images)

  • RUSSIA-OLY2014-POLITICS-PUTIN

    People watch the fireworks exploding over the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi, on February 7, 2013, to celebrate the one year countdown to the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics opening. Putin vowed today Russia would justify expectations when it hosts the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi in one year, after ruthlessly firing an official blamed for delays in building infrastructure. AFP PHOTO / NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA (Photo credit should read NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Ahmed Bilalov

    FILE - In this Jan. 26, 2011 file photo Ahmed Bilalov speaks with The Associated Press on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. A year before the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics begin, President Vladimir Putin has demanded that a senior member of the Russian Olympic Committee be fired. Putin's decision came after he scolded officials over a two-year delay and huge cost overruns in the construction of ski jump facilities for the Sochi Games. (AP Photo/Michel Euler, File)

  • RUSSIA-OLY2014-POLITICS-PUTIN

    A participant of a ceremony celebrating the one year countdown to the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics opening performs at the Bolshoi Ice Dome rink in the Black Sea city of Sochi, on February 7, 2013. Putin vowed today Russia would justify expectations when it hosts the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi in one year, after ruthlessly firing an official blamed for delays in building infrastructure. AFP PHOTO / NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA (Photo credit should read NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • RUSSIA-OLY2014-POLITICS-PUTIN

    Participants of a ceremony celebrating the one year countdown to the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics opening perform at the Bolshoi Ice Dome rink in the Black Sea city of Sochi, on February 7, 2013. Putin vowed today Russia would justify expectations when it hosts the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi in one year, after ruthlessly firing an official blamed for delays in building infrastructure. AFP PHOTO / NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA (Photo credit should read NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • RUSSIA-OLY2014-POLITICS-PUTIN

    Participants of a ceremony celebrating the one year countdown to the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics opening perform at the Bolshoi Ice Dome rink in the Black Sea city of Sochi, on February 7, 2013. Putin vowed today Russia would justify expectations when it hosts the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi in one year, after ruthlessly firing an official blamed for delays in building infrastructure. AFP PHOTO / NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA (Photo credit should read NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • RUSSIA-OLY2014-POLITICS-PUTIN

    A participant of a ceremony celebrating the one year countdown to the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics opening performs at the Bolshoi Ice Dome rink in the Black Sea city of Sochi, on February 7, 2013. Putin vowed today Russia would justify expectations when it hosts the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi in one year, after ruthlessly firing an official blamed for delays in building infrastructure. AFP PHOTO / NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA (Photo credit should read NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/AFP/Getty Images)