IIHF president Luc Tardif said Thursday he is "optimistic" NHL players will participate in the 2026 Olympic Winter Games in Milan, Italy.
“It’s the job of the IIHF to do everything to bring the best players to the competitions," Tardif said at the IIHF's meeting on Thursday, according to the IIHF website. "We had an agreement with the NHL, but unfortunately COVID decided that it was not possible. With the negotiations with the NHL, we have a positive base to be more optimistic for the next Olympic Games.
“If they wouldn’t come, it would be a big problem. 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.”
The IIHF website also reported that Tardif wanted to have the decision made about NHL players' participation long in advance of the Games. The NHL players' withdrawal from the 2022 Olympic Games in Beijing because of the rise in COVID-19 infections globally came on Dec. 21. The Games started on Feb. 4.