With Olympics on horizon, IIHF makes major decision on mandating neck guards


December 10, 2023

As the 2026 Winter Olympics approach, the International Ice Hockey Federation has taken a substantial step by mandating neck guards for all players. This decision is part of a broader initiative to improve player safety and prevent injuries on the ice.

The IIHF’s resolution is anticipated to carry considerable weight, particularly as teams prepare for the upcoming event. The adoption of neck guards, specifically designed to shield players from potentially serious injuries, is set to become a standard feature of players’ gear.

Meanwhile, the NHL is contemplating stringent measures in response to potential issues arising from the delayed construction of the Olympic arena in Milan, with the Palaltalia Santa Giulia’s completion date perilously close to the Winter Olympics in the fourth quarter of 2025.

Expressing worry, the NHL has raised concerns about the construction delay possibly causing disturbances to the league’s schedule and influencing player participation in the Olympics.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman highlighted the importance of completing the arena on schedule, especially given that the proposed 16,000-seat facility will not be completed until late 2025.

Bettman had this to say about the PalaItalia Santa Giulia arena:

“I don’t think they’ve actually begun construction on it, which is a matter of some concern. We know it’s important for the players to go, and we want to make it happen. We’re going to be as flexible as we can, but at some point, we’ve got to do a schedule for that season.”

The tight timeline poses challenges for testing the facility and ensuring its readiness for the upcoming Olympic tournament, scheduled shortly after its expected completion.

The unexpected delay in the arena construction timeline introduces a new level of uncertainty.

The league has subtly raised the possibility of relocation, considering Torino, Italy, or Lugano, Switzerland, as potential venues for the hockey tournament due to their proximity to Milan.

However, such a decision would entail logistical challenges.

While NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly acknowledges ongoing and fruitful discussions, the league maintains cautious optimism.

The hesitancy to disrupt the season for an extended period, as evidenced by the decision to forgo participation in the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, adds an additional layer of complexity to the current situation.

Amid the world’s anticipation for the games, the IIHF and NHL are proactively undertaking necessary steps to safeguard player well-being and facilitate a smooth and successful participation experience.

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