The U.S. men's hockey team celebrates at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 on Feb. 20, 2018 in PyeongChang, South Korea.
NHL players are one big step closer to playing in the 2022 and 2026 Olympic Winter Games after the players’ association extended its collective bargaining agreement Friday.
The four-year extension, which also cleared the way for the NHL to resume its 2019-20 season this summer following a nearly five-month pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic, included a provision that would allow players to compete at the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing and the 2026 Winter Games in Milan and Cortina, Italy, pending an agreement between the league and the International Olympic Committee and International Ice Hockey Federation.
IIHF President René Fasel expressed optimism that such a deal could be reached in an interview with the Associated Press after the NHLPA’s executive board signed off on the deal Tuesday and sent it on to the full membership.
“There are a lot of challenges,” Fasel said Wednesday. “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.”
Should all sides come to an agreement, the timing could allow for some U.S. Olympic veterans to pull on the Team USA sweater again in 2022. Patrick Kane, who had three goals and six assists over two previous Olympics, would be 33 in February 2022. Other Team USA veterans who could be in the mix include John Carlson, who would be 32, Ryan Suter, 37, and Blake Wheeler, 35.
Among the generation of new stars who could make their Olympic debuts in Beijing are Jack Eichel, Johnny Gaudreau, Seth Jones, Auston Matthews and Matthew Tkachuk.
Among the issues the league and the Olympic bodies must resolve are travel costs, health insurance and marketing rights.
Men’s ice hockey has been an Olympic sport since 1920, though for much of that time the competition was limited to amateurs. The NHL first released players to take part at the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano, and that remained the case for the following four Olympics until 2018.
Team USA has won Olympic gold in the sport twice, in 1960 and 1980. It twice won silver medals during the first NHL era, falling to Canada in the 2002 and 2010 finals.
A U.S. team made up of professionals from other leagues as well as college players finished seventh at the 2018 Winter Games in PyeongChang.
Chrös McDougall has covered the Olympic and Paralympic movements for TeamUSA.org since 2009 on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc. He is based in Minneapolis-St. Paul.