One of the fundamental disagreements between the NHL and NHLPA came to a head back in 2018 when the league decided to not allow its players to go to the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. While the players wanted an opportunity to play in a best-on-best tournament, the league was unable to reach an agreement with the IOC on covering costs and marketing rights and ultimately decided it wasn’t worth shutting things down for more than two weeks midseason to allow NHL players to participate.
Recent comments from the league about the 2022 Olympics in Beijing, China, suggested that the NHL was taking a similar stance but it appears that won’t be the case now. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reports that the CBA discussions (which have been gaining steam) would include the players participating in the 2022 Games. Pierre LeBrun of TSN and The Athletic takes it a step further (Twitter link), indicating that 2026 in Italy (Milan and Cortina) is also currently part of the agreement. Of course, both added the qualifier of negotiating an agreement with the IOC which isn’t a guarantee given what happened two years ago.
The current pandemic could also play a role in things, not only if it extends for a while yet but also on the schedule for that season. 2020-21 is expected to start in December at the earliest and run some time into the early summer. Knowing the Olympics cause a sizable gap in the schedule for 2021-22, it’s going to be difficult to bump up the start time for that season with the preceding playoffs running long. Accordingly, if this comes to fruition, we could be seeing playoff hockey in the summer not just this season (if they are able to get back to action) but for the next two as well.