Hockey fans hoping to see the return of international best-on-best competition are going to get their fill over the next few years. On Friday, the NHL announced that NHL players would participate in the 2026 and 2030 Winter Olympics, as well as a “4 Nations Face-Off” in 2025.
NHL players have not competed at the Olympics since 2014, when Canada defeated Sweden to win the gold medal. In recent years, NHL players have been clamoring for a return to Olympic play, and that is now a reality.
In a joint press conference at the NHL All-Star Weekend in Toronto, the NHL, NHLPA, and IIHF announced the Olympic news.
“The international composition of National Hockey League rosters is unparalleled, and NHL Players take great pride in representing their countries,” Bettman said in a statement. “We are pleased that today, after intense collaborative efforts with the NHL Players’ Association and the International Ice Hockey Federation, we can formally announce that NHL Players will participate in both the 2026 and 2030 Olympic hockey tournaments.”
When discussing the biggest hurdles to getting NHL players back to the Olympics, Bettman said he needed assurances about who would pay for the “big ticket items.” Funding for insurance, travel and lodging for the families were among the most important parts of the discussions between the NHL, NHLPA, and IIHF.
IIHF president Luc Tardif also confirmed that ice hockey at the 2026 Olympics in Italy will be played on NHL-sized rinks (200 ft. x 85 ft.).
Following the press conference regarding the Olympics, the NHL and NHLPA unveiled plans for the 4 Nations Face-Off, involving Canada, the United States, Sweden and Finland. The event will be held in two North American cities, one in Canada and the other in America.
“It means a lot, obviously,” Matthews said. “At any level, to be able to represent your country is a big honor. … I think it’ll be great for the players and obviously great for the sport and the fans. I think we’ll really enjoy it.”
The four teams will each play three Round Robin games, and the top two teams at the end of that will play in a one-game final to determine the winner.
Starting in 2028, the NHL wants to involve more countries in a true World Cup of Hockey every two years so fans still get to see best-on-best competition in non-Olympic years.
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