Vancouver Olympics Ice HockeyOne of the NHL’s worst-kept secrets became reality Friday afternoon.

The league officially announced Friday that its players will play in the upcoming Winter Olympics to be held in Sochi, Russia, beginning Feb. 7. This is the result of the league, the NHLPA, the IIHF and the IOC finally coming to a formal agreement allowing NHL players to take the ice at the 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 in the league’s statement. “The decision to participate in the XXII Olympic Winter Games in Sochi was in many ways a difficult one, but one that we know will be well received by our Players and, most importantly, by the vast majority of our fans and sports fans everywhere.”

There will be a 17-day break in the NHL schedule that will allow the players to take part in the Olympics. The league will break on Feb. 9 and will return to play on Feb. 26.

“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,” Donald Fehr, executive director of the NHLPA, said in the same statement. “Having the opportunity to wear their nation’s sweater in Sochi is something the players look forward to.”

Canada won the gold medal at the 2010 Winter Olympics after Sidney Crosby scored in overtime to defeat Team USA in the gold medal game.