Olympics going to be best-on-best once again

Feb 8, 2024 | Sports

Newmarket resident Laz Mandjik is a long-time hockey fan and a long-suffering Toronto Maple Leafs fan.

Mandjik said he is excited to see the greatest hockey players today play best-on-best in the Olympics as representatives of their nation.

“It’s always terrific hockey, like, right down to the end, too. The gold medal game is always spectacular,” he said.

Mandjik said he remembers the great moments in hockey history, including Sidney Crosby scoring the golden goal in overtime at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. The Sochi Olympics in 2014 was the last time NHL players competed.

And after 10 years, Olympic hockey will be best-on-best once again, and fans like Mandjik are looking forward to the possibility of another golden goal.

During the Toronto NHL All-Star weekend, Commissioner Gary Bettman announced NHL players will be eligible to participate in the 2026 and 2030 Olympics.

“The international composition of National Hockey League rosters is unparalleled, and NHL Players take great pride in representing their countries,” Bettman said.

NHLPA Executive Director Marty Walsh said hockey fans worldwide are anticipating the next best-on-best international competition.

“And now they can finally see some of their favourite players represent their countries and line up together,” he said.

The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) President Luc Tardif said the IIHF brought all parties to the table seeking a consensus for long-term cooperation.

“[This] is the backbone of what we intend to do as Sports Organizations,” Tardif said.

John Tavares, captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs, said Sunday after practice the return of NHL players to international competition was a step towards growing the sport.

“It’s going to be a must-watch TV, must-watch hockey,” Tavares said. “Do you let yourself dream of potentially being in the mix?”

Tavares recently came out of a nine-game slump to score against the Winnipeg Jets just before the All-Star break.

However, since his move to Toronto in 2018, NHL stats show Tavares has always achieved at least 50 points in every season.

Tavares will need to demonstrate his usual play to join the likes of top-calibre Canadian players like golden goal scorer Crosby.

Irrespective of a favourite team or favourite player, fans will support their nation when it comes time to watch international games.

Austin Matthews, currently paced to score 70 goals this season with the Leafs, is an American player who will most likely play for Team U.S.A.

“I am a huge Matthews fan. I think he’s the best hockey player in the NHL right now, but I’ll be cheering for Canada,” Mandjik said. “I’m not conflicted with that because as soon as the Olympics are over, he can get back on a good team.

“It’s a bigger deal for us as Canadians to beat the Americans, I feel than it is for the general American public [to see the U.S. beat Canada],” he said.

Bettman also announced a best-on-best for 2025 between four nations, Canada, the U.S., Sweden, and Finland, to take place instead of an All-Star week.