Players of the NHL will return to this winter’s Olympics in Beijing after reaching an agreement with international officials.
The NHL, its players’ union, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the International Ice Hockey Federation (IFF) agreed on a deal recently that will showcase the world’s best players back on sports’ highest stage in February after they missed out on the 2018 Pyeongchang Games.
Meanwhile, after the league and players agreed to participate in the Olympics as part of a long-lasting prolongment of the collective bargaining agreement last summer, the COVID-19 pandemic and related expenditures threatened to waive that possibility. Rather, the parties were able to figure it out, permitting the league or players to pull out if virus conditions change for the worse or there’s an outbreak while the season is on.
In as much as that does not happen, NHL players will take part in the Olympic men’s hockey tournament for the sixth time in seven opportunities which date to 1998.
The NHL participated in five Olympics in a row beginning in 1998 but did not participate in the 2018 Games in South Korea over concerns about travel, costs and logistics.
Participation in Olympics was an issue during last summer’s negotiations between the league and the NHL Players’ Association over the extension of the collective bargaining agreement, and the NHL pledged it would make effort to send players to Beijing.
A lot of hockey’s biggest names like Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid and Washington Capitals star Alexander Ovechkin have expressed their desire to play at the Olympics.
While talking in June, McDavid said: “When we signed our last (collective bargaining agreement) I think the players were pushing for a commitment from the league to allow us to go to the Olympics.
“My understanding (is) we got that commitment and the league is going to do everything in their power (to make that happen). As players, we’re expecting to go.”
Canada has been dominating Olympic hockey for a long time, winning gold in 2002 in Salt Lake, Vancouver in 2010 and Sochi in 2014.
The coach of Tampa Bay Lightning, John Cooper will lead Team Canada in Beijing.
Before the announcement in August, Cooper said: “It’s the Olympic Games. I get fired up just talking about it.”
St. Louis Blues’ Doug Armstrong will be the team’s general manager.
United States coach Mike Sullivan said returning to the Olympics is “such an exciting time for hockey.”
Also, while talking to The Associated Press recently, McDavid, who played for an under-23 “Team North America” at the 2016 Hockey World Cup and has not yet played for Canada in a competition of the world’s best men’s hockey players said: “Just to be able to represent Canada at the Olympics and compete for a gold medal would be an absolute dream come true.
“It’s kind of been a long time since we’ve been able to play best-on-best internationally. I think for me and I think for a lot of guys that were on that team, it’s been a long time coming. We’re looking forward to going to the Olympics if we’re all lucky enough to make it.”