By Ian Oland
Multiple media sources are reporting that NHL players will not participate in the 2022 Beijing Olympics. ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski writes that a formal announcement from the league should be expected within the next 24 hours.
The two sides had until January 10 to opt-out of the Winter Olympics without financial penalty.
The NHL and NHLPA have come to an agreement to not have players participate in the 2022 Winter Olympic men's hockey tournament in Beijing, multiple sources told @wyshynski. https://t.co/UxbbA3g8W5 pic.twitter.com/KXkXunYiLs
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) December 21, 2021
The decision comes after the NHL and NHLPA came to an agreement in the latest CBA to participate in the Olympics, which are scheduled to be held from February 4 through 20. China’s quarantine protocols (i.e. as long as five weeks) and the already profound impact COVID has made upon the NHL schedule are the primary reasons why the league will not participate.
Wyshynski writes that the latest NHL CBA included an Olympic opt-out if the league’s schedule was harmed.
The only caveat for the Beijing Olympics, scheduled for February 2022, was if the current NHL regular season was “materially impacted” by COVID-19 postponements. As of Dec. 21, the NHL has postponed 50 games because of outbreaks on teams and has paused its season through Christmas, apparently meeting that threshold.
Players who were actually able to be at rinks on Tuesday were bummed by the news.
“I haven’t heard it officially yet so I don’t really have a reaction, but if the next one is in four years, I’ll be 32,” possible Team USA goaltender, Connor Hellebuyck, said.” I know I’ll still be playing my best hockey, but we’ll see if it’s the same story. It was going to be an awesome opportunity to play, but I guess that’s just what we have to deal with.”
Hellebuyck added that the NHL pausing its season was “a little overkill” and shared his opinion that the NFL was “doing things right” with how it was handling its outbreak.
“That sucks,” Kyle Connor, another potential Olympian for Team USA, said when asked about the Beijing news. “I think everyone was looking forward to this.”
Penguins’ captain Sidney Crosby spoke after Pittsburgh held its final practice before the break.
“[Olympic participation] doesn’t look good right now so it’d obviously be disappointing to have it happen a second time and not be a part of it,” Crosby, who was set to join Canada’s Olympic team, said. “I think there are just so many what if’s right now I don’t want to get caught up in looking too far ahead. The Olympics as a whole, I’m sure there’s a lot of conversations being had about that. We’ll just have to see what happens but it’s a lot of moving parts right now.
“I definitely feel for the guys who have missed numerous opportunities,” he added. “It’s not something where it’s the next year or you push it a couple of months. These are experiences of a lifetime that you don’t get very many of as an athlete.”
The league currently has no games scheduled after the All-Star Game (Saturday, February 5 in Las Vegas) and February 23, but is expected to make up many of its postponed games then.
“A lot of things can change,” Crosby said. “I think everybody is dealing with that, whether it is in hockey or any walk of life. You just have to be ready to adjust, try to wrap your head around it, and try to get through it.”
Update: Here’s the NHL’s release making it official.
NHL Announces That There Will Not Be an Olympic Break, NHL Players Will Not Be Able to Participate in 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing
NEW YORK (Dec. 22, 2021) – With the National Hockey League’s regular-season schedule having been materially disrupted as a result of increasing COVID cases and a rising number of postponed games, the National Hockey League announced today that NHL Players will not participate in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
“The National Hockey League respects and admires the desire of NHL Players to represent their countries and participate in a ‘best on best’ tournament. Accordingly, we have waited as long as possible to make this decision while exploring every available option to enable our Players to participate in the 2022 Winter Olympic Games,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said. “Unfortunately, given the profound disruption to the NHL’s regular-season schedule caused by recent COVID-related events — 50 games already have been postponed through Dec. 23 — Olympic participation is no longer feasible. We certainly acknowledge and appreciate the efforts made by the International Olympic Committee, the International Ice Hockey Federation and the Beijing Organizing Committee to host NHL Players but current circumstances have made it impossible for us to proceed despite everyone’s best efforts. We look forward to Olympic participation in 2026.
“Our focus and goal have been and must remain to responsibly and safely complete the entirety of the NHL regular season and Stanley Cup Playoffs in a timely manner. Therefore, with stringent health protocols once again in place, we will begin utilizing available dates during the Feb. 6-22 window (originally contemplated to accommodate Olympic participation) to reschedule games that have been, or may yet be, postponed.”
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