Russia and Belarus barred from ice hockey world championships for 1 more year through 2025 season

The next Winter Olympics is due to open Feb. 6, 2026 in northern Italy and hockey will be played in Milan with NHL players involved for the first time since 2014 in Sochi, Russia.

The IIHF set a deadline of May next year for its ruling council to decide if Russia and Belarus can return in time for the Olympics.

At the NHL All-Star Weekend this month in Toronto, Russian Nikita Kucherov of the Tampa Bay Lightning was asked if his country was going to be a part of the Olympics.

“I want to go — I think everybody wants to go, and it definitely means a lot for the country,” Kucherov said. “Hopefully, my fingers crossed, that we’re going to be in the Olympics — Team Russia is going to be in the Olympics. And it’s going to be a real best versus best because when Team Russia is not out there, it’s not the same.”

The Russian team took gold at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics and silver in 2022 in Beijing.

Ice hockey is a favorite sport played by both Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.

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Winter Olympics news: https://apnews.com/hub/winter-olympics and more AP sports: https://apnews.com/sports

The Associated Press

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