NHL eyeing return to Olympics, working on international tournament for 2025

The NHL and NHLPA are working to create a best-on-best international tournament to begin in February 2025.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly announced on Wednesday that the league, in tandem with the NHLPA, is working towards creating a best-on-best international tournament to begin in February 2025.

“I don't know exactly what form it will take," Daly said during the European media tour, via’s Dan Rosen. "The goal is to make it an international competition of some sort. It's going to obviously be heavily NHL-centric in terms of the player base, maybe entirely NHL.

"We'll see what form it takes, but that's something we're working on with the Players' Association."

The goal is to build a sustainable international competition, with the long-term aim of re-establishing the World Cup of Hockey and allowing NHL players to rejoin the Winter Olympics.

“If we do a '25 international tournament, we do the '26 Olympics, the '28 World Cup of Hockey, the '30 Olympics, the '32 World Cup of Hockey, and so on," Daly said. "That's the goal."

Canada won gold the last time NHL players participated in the Olympics. (Photo by Robert Beck /Sports Illustrated via Getty Images)

The last time a best-on-best international competition took place in men’s hockey was during the World Cup of Hockey in 2016, where Canada defeated Europe — a collection of players assembled from Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Norway, Slovakia, Slovenia and Switzerland — to win the gold medal. Previously, NHL players participated in the Winter Olympics spanning from 1998-2014.

For many of the NHL’s best players, including Connor McDavid, who has been vocal about his disappointment surrounding the league’s non-participation in the 2018 and 2022 Olympics, this would provide their first opportunity to represent their country on the biggest stage. A team consisting of the NHL’s best 23-and-under North American players, including McDavid, Nathan MacKinnon and Auston Matthews, took part in the 2016 World Cup under the hybrid Team North America banner.

Russia and Belarus remain banned from all IIHF events due to the invasion of Ukraine. Daly said the league would monitor a pending decision on the countries' eligibility for the 2024 Olympics to potentially reinstate both nations.

"The IOC has made public statements that indicate to me that they're going to try very hard to include Russian athletes on some basis," Daly said. "Whether it's on the basis they've included them in the past where they're not really playing for a flag but they are playing and participating, I think that is probably a model they will pursue. Who knows how it plays out?”

Although the prospect of top-tier international competition is exciting for long-starved fans, there are still checks and balances to go through and Daly did not offer a timeline for when the NHL and NHLPA would make a commitment to international competition, whether through a new tournament or rejoining the Winter Olympics.