NHL players will return to Olympics in 2026


At the next Winter Olympics, for the first time since 2014, hockey rosters will be made up of active NHL players.

The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), NHL, and NHLPA announced on Friday plans for players to participate in the 2026 and 2030 Olympics.

“The international composition of National Hockey League rosters is unparalleled, and NHL players take great pride in representing their countries,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement.

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Olympic hockey pucks

Hockey pucks on the Olympic logo during the Women’s Ice Hockey Quarterfinal game between Team United States and Team Czech Republic on Day 7 of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games at Wukesong Sports Centre on February 11, 2022, in Beijing, China.  (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Perhaps the league’s best player confirmed Bettman’s notion. “Extremely badly want to play in the Olympics,” three-time, and defending, MVP Connor McDavid said Thursday. “All these guys that haven’t had a chance to represent their country at a best-on-best, I think it’s something that we’re all hungry to do.”

“We also know that hockey fans worldwide have long been anticipating the next best-on-best international competition, and now they can finally see some of their favourite players represent their countries and line up together,” added NHLPA executive director Marty Walsh.

IIHF president Luc Tardif called the news “a turning point for ice hockey.”

Russians dominated hockey at the Olympics for the majority of the 1960s, ‘70s and ’80s – of course, they were upset in 1980 by the United States in the “Miracle on Ice.” Prior to the ’60s, Canada won six golds from 1920 to 1952.

NHL players first appeared at the Olympics in 1998 and played in each games until 2014, with the league pausing its season for the games. NHL players were expected to participate in the 2022 games in Beijing, but the league backed out due to COVID-19. Former players, though, did participate that year, as well as 2018 in South Korea.

Team USA at 2018 Olympics

A cameraman (bottom left) films the US team getting ready for the men’s play-off qualifications ice hockey match between the United States and Slovakia during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at the Gangneung Hockey Centre in Gangneung on February 20, 2018. (AFP via Getty Images)

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The United States has not won gold since 1980. It was the country’s second, having also won 20 years prior.

Golds in the NHL era were won by Canada three times, and Sweden and the Czech Republic winning once each. The United States’ best finish in the NHL era has been the silver medal in 2010, after Sidney Crosby scored the game-winning overtime goal to give Canada a win on their home ice in Vancouver.

The 2026 games are slated to take place from February 6 through 22 in Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo. It remains to be seen whether Russia will be allowed to participate in 2026. The IOC is allowing individual athletes from the country to compete under a neutral flag, but banned Russians from team competitions at the 2024 Games in Paris.

Goalie net in Olympics

A general view of the hockey net prior to a practice session at the Wukesong Sports Centre on February 2, 2022, in Beijing, China. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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The Russians — playing as the Olympic Athletes from Russia — took home Olympic gold in 2018 with a stacked roster including former Detroit Red Wings winger Pavel Datsyuk and current Minnesota Wild All-Star Kirill Kaprizov. Finland is now the defending Olympic champion after winning in Beijing.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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