Olympic hockey could see return of NHL players in 2022

Canada's Sidney Crosby (L) shakes hands with Team USA's Phil Kessel after Canada won their men's ice hockey semi-final game at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games, February 21, 2014. (REUTERS/Brian Snyder)

By Joe Pantorno

The pros could be headed back to the Olympics if all goes well.

NHL players will return to the Olympic Games if the league’s modified Collective Bargaining Agreement is finalized, pending an agreement with the International Olympic Committee (IOC), per reports.

The agreement would allow NHLers to participate at the Olympics for the 2022 and 2026 Games in Beijing and Milan.

NHL players did not participate in the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea after a dispute with the IOC over the costs incurred by the players and who would cover them.

In year’s past, the IOC covered the players’ travel, insurance, and accommodations, but chose not to do so in 2018. The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) offered to cover a portion of the charges, but the NHL cited taking players away from league play during the season and running the risk of injuries when insurance wasn’t covered.

It forced the likes of the United States and Canada — the latter being the two-time defending Olympic champions — to send a team of amateurs or players plying their trade in international leagues for the first time since 1994.

Meanwhile, countries like Russia, Sweden, and Germany were able to send their top professional players to Pyeongchang.

It resulted in the Olympic-sponsored Russian team winning the gold, Germany nabbing silver, and Canada coming away with the Bronze. The Americans finished seventh.

The potential return of NHL players would restore order to the international hockey scene while returning a more intense interest to the competition.

The 2018 Gold Medal Game between Germany and the Olympic Athletes from Russia saw 2.9 million viewers tune in to NBC. That was a 2-million-viewer decrease compared to the 2014 Gold Medal Game between Canada and Sweden.

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