NHL to once again send players back to Olympics in 2026, but will arena be ready?

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IIHF President Luc Tarif, NHLPA executive director Marty Walsh and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman speak with the media on February 02, 2024 at the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
We are 168 days from the Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris, which will be held on July 26. Each Friday from now until the torch is lit in Paris come back for a weekly update on all things Olympics, whether they are regarding the Paris games or future Olympics.
NHL to send players back to Olympics starting in 2026, but there is one concern
Last week, officials from the National Hockey League, the NHL Players Association, the International Ice Hockey Federation and the International Olympic Committee announced that NHL players will be returning to compete at the 2026 and 2030 Olympic Games.
The last time NHL players were at the Olympics was in 2014. However, despite the enthusiasm from the NHL and world hockey community, there did remain one small elephant in the room when it comes to the 2026 Winter Olympics in Italy.
Will the arena that’s supposed to hold all the hockey action even be ready?
Italian officials want to hold the hockey games at a brand new 16,000-seat arena in Milan (which is co-hosting along with Cortina d’Ampezzo), but in what’s become a theme of other construction efforts for the 2026 Games, the Italians are doing things at the last minute and better hope no delays occur.
Ground for the arena wasn’t broken until December, and at the moment, it’s nothing but a giant hole in dirt. Completion of the project is slated for the fourth quarter of 2025, but that is perilously close to the start of the Olympics in February 2026.
Testing events for Olympic facilities are usually done months in advance, so having a facility completed roughly 6 to 8 weeks before competition starts is not ideal.
Unfortunately, that looks to be the best-case scenario at the moment for the world hockey community. If any delays pop up, there might have to be an alternative site to host the hockey competition, even if it’s in a neighboring country.
“We have been given assurances that the building will be ready and we’re relying on those assurances,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said at a press conference in Toronto last week. “But there’s a lot of construction that remains to be done on that building. I think they only recently started. But we’re being told by everybody not to worry, but I like to worry. So we’ll see.”
The last-minute uncertainty with the hockey arena joins other venues as major question marks for Italian organizers. Last week, the organizing committee signed a contract with a builder to rebuild the nearly century-old sliding track in Cortina d’Ampezzo used for bobsled, luge and skeleton at a cost of roughly $89 million, in the process going against the IOC’s wishes.
The IOC doesn’t want additional costs taken on by the hosts, and suggested alternative sliding venues in Austria, Switzerland and Lake Placid, New York as other options. The track has to be completed by March 2025 in order to have mandated testing events done, otherwise an alternate site will be used.
No sliding venue has been completed in that quick of a time frame, but determined to not outsource the sliding events to another country, the Italians are forging on.
In addition, there are questions about whether the existing San Siro Stadium — site of the Opening Ceremony — will need to be renovated before the games and how extensive a new Olympic Village construction project will need to be, especially if athletes in the sliding events will be competing elsewhere.
U.S. marathoners qualify for Paris
The U.S. marathon trials were held in Orlando this past Saturday, with two men and three women qualifying to represent the U.S. at this summer’s Olympics in Paris.
In the men’s competition, Conner Mantz and Clayton Young were named to the Olympic team after not only finishing 1-2 in the event, but because they had already unlocked two spots for the American team by meeting the Olympic qualifying standard time (2:08.10) back in October.
Leonard Korir finished third and could eventually also be named as a third and final member of the team, but he hasn’t run the Olympic qualifying time yet, nor has any other American runner.
But Korir might still be named to the team eventually if he can run the qualifying time, or meets other standards such as having a high enough world ranking for finishing in the top-five in a platinum-level race.
For the women, it was a lot more straightforward since 13 competitors entered the race having met the Olympic qualifying standard time of 2:29.30, creating a situation where pretty much the first three finishers qualified for the team.
Fiona O’Keeffe, Emily Sisson and Dakota Lindwurm were the top three finishers and since each had already met the qualifying time, they all will be headed to Paris.
USA rallies to win medal count at Winter Youth Olympics
The 2024 Winter Youth Olympics concluded last week in South Korea, and it turned out to be a winning one for Team USA.
The Americans finished atop the medal standings with 21 overall medals (5 gold, 11 silver, 5 bronze), one more than Germany’s total of 20. Italy did lay claim to the most gold medals, winning 11.

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