NHL Confirms Players Won't Be Going to Olympics

COVID disruptions mean going to Beijing is now unfeasible, commissioner says
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 21, 2021 7:25 PM CST
Updated Dec 22, 2021 5:30 PM CST
Report: NHL Is Pulling Out of the Olympics
A staff member stands near a sign outlining COVID-19 protection measures during the Experience Beijing Ice Hockey Domestic Test Activity, a test event for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, at the National Indoor Stadium in Beijing.   (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, File)

Update: NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman confirmed Wednesday that players would not be allowed to participate in the Beijing Olympics, making official what seemed inevitable in recent days when a rash of positive COVID-19 test results caused several teams to shut down, the AP reports. The league will use the previously scheduled Feb. 6-22 Olympic break to make up 50 postponed games and others that need to be rescheduled. "Given the profound disruption to the NHL’s regular-season schedule caused by recent COVID-related events ... Olympic participation is no longer feasible,” Bettman said. Our story from Tuesday follows:

The NHL will withdraw from the Winter Olympics after the regular-season schedule was disrupted by coronavirus outbreaks, a person with direct knowledge of the decision told the AP on Tuesday. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because an announcement had yet to be made on the NHL pulling out of Beijing. The league informed the players' association on Tuesday that it was retaining its right to withdraw from Olympic participation because there was a material disruption to the season, and the union was not going to dispute the decision, the person said. An announcement is expected Wednesday.

With 50 games already postponed, there was a fear the NHL would be unable to complete a full 82-game season while also taking a break of more than two weeks in February for the Olympics. The NHL’s bottom line is at stake with the league and players drawing no direct money from competing at the Winter Games. While the NHL and NHLPA agreed on Olympic participation last year as part of a collective bargaining agreement extension, the deal to go to Beijing was contingent on pandemic conditions not worsening. A material interruption of the schedule allowed the league to pull out, and the delta and omicron variants spreading across North America not only caused games to be pushed back but made some players hesitant about going to China.

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As a result, the men’s hockey tournament at the Olympics will go on without NHL players for the second consecutive time. Unless the Beijing Games are postponed a year like Tokyo's, a generation of stars including American Auston Matthews, Canadians Connor McDavid and Nathan MacKinnon, German Leon Draisaitl, and Swede Victor Hedman will need to wait until 2026 to play in the Olympic men’s hockey tournament for the first time. Russia, which won gold at the Pyeongchang Games in 2018, immediately becomes the favorite without the NHL thanks to an influx of homegrown talent playing in the Kontinental Hockey League.

(More NHL stories.)

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