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Olympic return

DAN CEARNS The Standard

Hockey fans across the country got some exciting news this past week, when, National Hockey League (NHL) commissioner, Gary Bettman announced, NHL players will be allowed to participate in the next two Winter Olympics, in 2026 and 2030.

The 2026 games will mark the first time the NHL has allowed their players to take part in the Olympics, since 2014 in Sochi, Russia. The NHL had planned to have their players participate in the 2022 games in Beijing, but pulled out, due to the pandemic conditions at the time.

Since 2014, the last time NHL players took part in a ‘best-on-best’ style tournament was in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. That tournament did not have all countries, going with teams like Team North America, Team Europe, as well as a handful of the usual country teams like Canada, USA, Sweden and Russia.

One of my most fond hockey moments, in my lifetime, came when watching the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. Specifically, Sidney Crosby scoring the ‘golden goal’ in overtime, to defeat the United States, is, in my opinion, my generation’s version of the Paul Henderson goal. In fact, I had a poster of that team, with their gold medals, on my bedroom wall for the longest time.

The league has a wealth of talent to choose from, for the next Winter games. Imagine Team Canada, with names like Connor McDavid, Mitch Marner, Nathan MacKinnon, Cale Makar and likely the return of Sidney Crosby to the international stage. It truly will be a best-on-best tournament, with those players facing off with the likes of Auston Matthews (USA), Elias Pettersson (Sweden) and Leon Draisaitl (Germany).

Canada’s roster will certainly feature more household names than it had in the 2022 games, when Eric Staal, Kent Johnson and Mason McTavish were the most notable names on the team.

To me, the Olympics are also a unique experience as a fan. Watching, as people across the country unite behind a common goal, cheering on their country. Seeing flags adorning cars and taking pride in every medal, gold, silver and bronze, our country takes with them.

I’m excited about the prospect of seeing NHL players taking part in the Olympics again. It should be quite a unique experience taking in the 2026 and 2030 games.

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