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SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 15: T.J. Oshie #74 of the United States celebrates with teammates after scoring on a shootout against Sergei Bobrovski #72 of Russia to win the Men's Ice Hockey Preliminary Round Group A game on day eight of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Bolshoy Ice Dome on February 15, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The stars of the National Hockey League will return to the game’s greatest stage this winter, as NHL players will indeed participate in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

The announcement came after what felt like months (or maybe years) of negotiating between the league and the IIHF, and almost felt inevitable with NHL head coaches and front office members named to the staffs of their respective countries. The Bruins will have front office and coaching representation on Team Canada, for example, with Don Sweeney named an assistant general manager and Bruce Cassidy named an assistant coach on the staff earlier this year.

This agreement also felt overdue after the NHL opted not to participate in the 2018 Olympics PyeongChang, and without any sort of big-stage international stage featuring the best of the best NHL stars since the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.

The gap was a staggering one for all sides involved, and the players made that known when they included Olympic participation (pending IIHF agreement) when the sides ratified a new collective bargaining agreement before last season.

“We understand how passionately NHL players feel about representing and competing for their countries,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said. “We are very pleased that we were able to conclude arrangements that will allow them to resume best-on-best competition on the Olympic stage.”

But with the COVID-19 pandemic still raging, this agreement to take NHL talents to Beijing is on a “for now” basis, as they could withdraw from the Olympics should the conditions be deemed ‘impractical or unsafe’ by the league and NHLPA.

The 2022 Olympics are currently slated to run from Feb. 4 through Feb. 20, 2022.

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Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Yell at him on Twitter: @_TyAnderson.