By: Martin Oldhues
The world’s best hockey players will once again take to the ice to represent their countries in the largest national sporting event in only two years.
The National Hockey League has announced the league’s players are returning to the Winter Olympics beginning in 2026, ending a 12-year hiatus from the international event.
In 2017, the International Olympic Committee would not agree to cover 14 million in insurance and travel costs, causing the NHL to back out of the upcoming event in South Korea.
A return was in the works by the league, the Players Association, the International Ice Hockey Federation and the IOC for a while now. But due to the pandemic, a decision was made to skip the Beijing Olympics in 2022.
Future hall of famer Sidney Crosby has played on the big stage multiple times, saying, “From my experience in it, I don’t know if you get better hockey than that. It’s great to be a part of and great for fans and everyone involved. It’s a special thing.” Per NHL.com’s Amalie Benjamin. Crosby scored the golden goal for Canada to win the Olympics in Vancouver in 2010.
In a press conference, Edmonton Oilers All-Star Connor McDavid said, “Talking about growing the game, doing all these things well, you got to have the best on best, play on the biggest stage in the sport, and that is the Olympics.”
According to Barret Media, National TV ratings for hockey rose by nearly 40% this year compared to the 2022-2023 season. The decision to showcase players like McDavid, Nathan MacKinnon, Auston Matthews and others at the competition could see further growth for the sport, as two billion people watched the previous one in 2022.
Players and fans alike took to social media to express their excitement about the decision:
This just in… 👀
NHL players will represent their countries in both the 2026 and 2030 Olympics AND the 2025 NHL 4 Nations Face-Off. pic.twitter.com/2Qhe7vLoH3
— NHL (@NHL) February 2, 2024
— Jacob Pacheco (@JacobPacheco6) February 2, 2024
League Comminsor Gary Bettman said they’re looking for competitions every two years, with the World Cup of Hockey and now the Olympics.
Bettman confirmed that the United States, Canada, Sweden, and Finland would hold an in-season tournament next year, replacing the All-Star game.