Sidney Crosby waited along with everyone else for an agreement to send NHL players to the 2014 Winter Olympics. It had been almost three years and five months since he scored the gold-medal-winning goal for Canada in Vancouver.
When a deal was finally reached Friday between the league, NHL Players' Association, International Ice Hockey Federation and International Olympic Committee, Crosby and the rest of hockey could begin to make plans for what's next.
"I think like everyone thought (that) it was just kind of a matter of time, working out logistics," the Pittsburgh Penguins' captain 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."
Sochi, Russia will be the fifth Olympics with NHL participation, which began in Nagano, Japan, in 1998. Canada won gold at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, when Crosby scored to beat the United States in overtime.
"It's gone by really fast," Crosby said on a conference call with reporters. "Obviously with injuries and stuff like that, it wasn't like there was three full hockey seasons to kind of look back on. It's definitely gone by quick, but it's exciting."
Overall it's been an up-and-down experience for Canada at the Olympics. Canada finished seventh in Turn in 2006, won gold in Salt Lake City in 2002 and finished fourth in Nagano in 1998.
Canada will be in Group B along with Austria, Finland and Norway. Group A is made up of the United States, Russia, Slovakia and Slovenia, while Group C is made up of the Czech Republic, Sweden, Switzerland and Latvia. Canada opens the Olympic tournament Feb. 13 against Norway.
Naturally, the expectation for Canada is the same as it was in 2010.
"Just being Canadian you realize pretty quickly that people come together that time of year, especially, and when it's hockey even more so," Crosby said. "I think that you want to go there and find a way to win gold."
Preparations for Sochi were ongoing well before it was official that NHL players could represent their countries in the Games.
"(General manager) Steve Yzerman and the management group have been evaluating players all year," Hockey Canada president and CEO Bob Nicholson said in a phone interview. "We're in good shape. We're right on schedule for our planning purposes."
Nicholson said he expects an announcement of the coaching staff in the coming days. It will reportedly include head coach Mike Babcock and assistants Claude Julien, Ken Hitchcock and Lindy Ruff.
Canada's Olympic orientation camp could begin Aug. 25 in Calgary, though it's not certain whether players will be able to skate. Individual federations must insure NHL contracts for camps, and USA Hockey will not have an on-ice component to its camp in Arlington, Va.
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