The Olympics feel much, much different without NHLers. If the IIHF has its way, they won't need to worry about that four years from now.
During the IIHF's media briefing on Thursday in Beijing, IIHF president Luc Tardif said negotiations with the NHL "have a positive base to be more optimistic for the next Olympic Games" regarding participation.
The NHL pulled out of the Olympics in December, citing COVID-19 as the reason. The NHL was forced to cancel over 50 games and put a premature pause on the season due to outbreaks across the league.
The league elected to skip the 2018 tournament in South Korea, but the NHL, NHLPA and IIHF worked together to make a deal to allow participation in Beijing.
The 2026 Olympics are set to take place in Milan, Italy. The NHL sent players to the 2006 Olympics in Turin, with Sweden winning gold.
Tardif hopes that a decision regarding NHL participation will be made early enough to allow for all competing teams to be prepared accordingly.
“If they wouldn’t come, it would be a big problem," Tardif said. "Everybody was sorry that we couldn’t bring the best players. It was a missed opportunity but we’re ready for the next rendezvous. Even though the NHL didn’t come, we had an agreement and they tried until the end. The agreement is still there and I’m optimistic. They’re following the competition and we will meet each other in March for different topics.”