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NHL, players agree to return to Olympics in 2022, 2026

Would participate for first time since 2014 if deals reached with IOC, IIHF

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer

NHL players will return to the Olympics in 2022 and 2026.

Participation is pending an agreement between the NHL, NHL Players' Association, International Olympic Committee and International Ice Hockey Federation.

The NHL would participate for the first time since 2014, part of the four-year extension of the NHL/NHLPA Collective Bargaining Agreement that was ratified by the NHL Board of Governors and the NHLPA on Friday.

"I think it's very special for any player to be part of the Olympics Games," Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl said. "I think it was a big deal, it is a big deal to all of us. I think we're all happy with the outcome that we'll all be able to hopefully participate in it."


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IIHF president Rene Fasel said he doesn't foresee any issues with the NHL and NHLPA coming to agreements with the IOC and IIHF to get players to the 2022 Beijing Olympics and 2026 Milano Cortina Olympics.

"No, I don't think there's a deal breaker," Fasel told The Associated Press. "There are a lot of challenges, but I think in principle I would say the news that that's in the CBA, for me and especially international hockey, is very good news."

The NHL did not send players to the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics after participating in five straight Olympics from 1998-2014, with 706 NHL players attending, an average of 141 per season.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said the majority of its teams were opposed to Olympic participation when the League announced its decision not to participate in 2018.

The chief reason for the disinterest at the time was the interruption of 2 1/2 weeks in the NHL regular-season schedule required in February for Olympic participation. The IOC was also declining to pay the participation costs associated with travel, insurance and accommodations. Fasel said those financial issues can be worked out to get NHL players to the next two Winter Olympics.

"It's something that players want for the most part. Honestly, there wasn't really a negotiation about that," said Jets forward Andrew Copp, a member of the NHLPA negotiating committee. "That was one of the most established points and I think it was almost a formality. I don't think that was something that was some players vs. other players. I think everyone thinks it's a great way to grow the game, and if we're able to play with fans and then continue to grow the revenue of the game, we're going to be able to come out of this pandemic in a great spot. If we don't have fans and we're still able to grow the game in other ways moving forward, then once we get out we'll still be in a good spot."

Canada won the Olympic gold medal three times (2002 Salt Lake City, 2010 Vancouver, 2014 Sochi) with NHL players participating. Sweden won it at Torino in 2006, and the Czech Republic won it at Nagano in 1998.

"I think that's really attractive just because it's growing the game and we get to promote our game," Carolina Hurricanes forward Justin Williams said. "The best players are out there. I just think it's great for the game of hockey be able to showcase the best players, guys you don't normally see as teammates. It's just so unique. The Olympics are a special event in itself, but having NHL players there, you love to see the best on best, and that's pretty, pretty special."

The United States won the silver medal in 2002 and 2010. Sweden won the silver in 2014. Finland won the silver in 2006, and the bronze medal in 1998, 2010 and 2014. Russia won the silver in 1998 and the bronze in 2002. The Czech Republic won the bronze in 2006.

"Everybody wants to represent their country, everybody wants to play in the Olympics," Vancouver Canucks forward Bo Horvat said. "I think that's a big thing that we wanted, not only for ourselves to represent our country, but to grow the game. I think this is great to negotiate that and be able to play in the Olympics coming up. It's great for hockey, it's great for the fans, and it's great for us as players to represent our countries, so we're excited about it."

The Board of Governors and NHLPA also ratified the NHL Return to Play Plan, which will resume the season Aug. 1 with the 24-team Stanley Cup Qualifiers. It has been paused since March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus.

The collective bargaining agreement will expire after the 2025-26 NHL season.

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