NHL players ready to return to the Olympics

The league also announced the creation of a new midseason tournament.

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Feb 8, 2024; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; Carolina Hurricanes left wing Michael Bunting (58) reacts during the warmups before the game against the Colorado Avalanche at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 8, 2024; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; Carolina Hurricanes left wing Michael Bunting (58) reacts during the warmups before the game against the Colorado Avalanche at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

The National Hockey League (NHL) is back in the Winter Olympic business.

For the first time since Sochi 2014, NHL players will be able to compete in the Winter Olympics starting in 2026.

“We know how important international competition is to our players,” said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman during NHL All-Star Weekend in Toronto.

“We know they love and want to represent the countries from which they’re from,” he said.

The agreement between the NHL and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) did not happen quickly or easily.

Bettman said his league and players had concerns over the construction delays for the Milano Cortina 2026 hockey arena, along with the costs of insurance and travel accommodation for the players heading to Italy in two years.

Luc Tardiff, the president of the International Ice Hockey Federation, said it will be “a team effort” between his federation and the IOC to determine who pays for what and how much, while Bettman said the NHL isn’t responsible for any major expenses.

Canada's gold medallists Duncan Keith, goalkeeper Carey Price and Jonathan Toews celebrate during the Men's Ice Hockey Medal Ceremony during the Sochi Winter Olympics 2014.  JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP/Getty Images
Canada's gold medallists Duncan Keith, goalkeeper Carey Price and Jonathan Toews celebrate during the Men's Ice Hockey Medal Ceremony during the Sochi Winter Olympics 2014. JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP/Getty Images

Beginning with Nagano 1998, NHL players competed in five consecutive Winter Olympics, but that streak ended in 2018 when the NHL and, the majority of their teams, opted not to disrupt their season by sending players to South Korea.

The league also skipped Beijing 2022 due to COVID-19 already causing havoc with their schedule.

Bettman also announced the creation of the 4 National Face-Off tournament in 2025, with games played in the U.S. and Canada.

It’s a four-team tournament between the U.S., Canada, Sweden and Finland consisting of seven games played during a nine-day stretch.

Each country will face the other three in a round-robin format similar to major football tournaments. The top two teams will then advance to the championship.