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The International Olympic Committee and the International Ice Hockey Federation are responsible for Olympic hockey tournaments. The first competition was held during the VIIth (Summer) Olympic Games in 1920. It was retroactively designated as a World Championship in 1983. Hockey has remained a part of every Winter Olympic Games since the first tournament in 1924. Until 1992, the IIHF World Championships were combined with the Olympics (with the exception of 1972 and 1976). Since 1992, a separate World Championship tournament has been held in Olympic years. In 1988, the IIHF allowed professional athletes to play at the Olympic hockey tournament. Women's hockey made its debut at the 1998 Nagano Games. For the first time ever, the men's tournament showcased the world's top players as a result of a break in the NHL schedule that brought the league's best to Japan.

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