When the puck drops on the Beijing 2022 men’s ice hockey tournament on Feb. 9, it will mark 24 years since Japan last participated — as the host nation of the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano — and 42 years since it qualified outright for Lake Placid in 1980.

If Nikko Ice Bucks COO Takayuki Hioki has his way, 2030 will mark the end of that drought for good.

The businessman and entrepreneur, whose resume includes producing the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, is bullish on Sapporo’s chances of receiving the torch from Milan-Cortina 2026 and hosting the Winter Games in eight years — and what that could mean for reviving flagging domestic interest in hockey.