North American ice hockey’s NHL has announced its players will compete in the Olympics for the first time in over a decade.
The league, the NHL Players’ Association, the International Olympic Committee, and the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) struck a deal on Friday (February 2) that will see NHL stars participate in the 2026 and 2030 Winter Olympics.
NHL players have not featured in the event since the 2014 winter games in Sochi.
A deal was previously agreed between the four parties for the NHL to send players to the Winter Olympics in Beijing in 2022 but the league eventually pulled out due to concerns over the Covid-19 pandemic.
NHL players participated in the five games from 1998 to 2014 but were absent from the 2018 edition in Pyeongchang, South Korea after a deal could not be reached with team owners over issues including the suspension of the season and insurance and travel costs.
But after two years of negotiations, the IIHF has agreed to be responsible for “big-ticket items” such as insurance and travel for the players and their families.
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As part of an extension to the NHL's collective bargaining agreement, struck in 2020, the league had agreed that players could go to the 2022 and 2026 Winter Olympics if an agreement with the IOC was reached.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said: “There is a recognition of how important this is to the players, and in the spirit of cooperation – particularly the work that we did together during Covid – everybody felt on our side that it was the right thing to do.
"This really came down to doing something because the players really wanted it.”
The 2026 Winter Olympics will be held in Milan-Cortina, while the 2030 edition is set to be awarded to the French Alps as it was recently confirmed as the sole candidate to host the event.
The upcoming international calendar is also expected to include a four-nation tournament involving the US, Canada, Sweden, and Finland next year.
The NHL will hold an All-Star Game in 2026 to send off NHL players to the Olympics in Milan, and the plan is to alternate the World Cup of Hockey and the Olympics every two years afterward.