Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: there is optimism that the NHL will participate in the next Winter Olympic Games. Despite participation being agreed to in the most recent Collective Bargaining Agreement, the NHL pulled out of the current Beijing games late, citing Coronavirus as the main concern though many existed. After two consecutive Winter Olympics without NHL participation, it is hard to guarantee anything but IIHF President Luc Tardif is ready to do just that.
In a report by Stephen Whyno for the Associated Press, Tardif states that he is confident that NHLers will return to the Olympic Games in 2026 when the event takes place in Milan and Cortina, Italy. Tardif does not expect there to be any mitigating factors in 2026 as there were this year and that the league will honor the agreement with the NHLPA, IIHF, and IOC to allow their stars to represent their countries on the largest international stage. Tardif briefly mentioned that while he sees plenty of merit in moving the hockey tournament to the Summer Games, he does not see that happening and believes the NHL can make it work in-season. He hopes that an agreement on the terms of participation can be agreed to well ahead of time, at least a year before the tournament starts.
Whyno adds that NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly appears to be on the same page. Daly has stated that the league does not foresee any issues with participation and expect an agreement “on a relatively expedited basis.”
As for other IIHF events impacted by COVID this year, Tardif added that he fully expects the 2022 U-20 World Junior Championship and Women’s U-18 Tournament to both take place this summer after being canceled in December. Tardif believes the Women’s Championship will take place in the U.S. in June, while the WJC returns to Canada in August. Notably, this would put the tournament after the NHL Draft, removing it as an option for any last-minute scouting, though still an invaluable tool for prospect evaluation.