Die NHL has officially announced that given the rising cases of COVID-19 across the league, players will no longer compete in the Beijing Winter Olympics in February.
“The National Hockey League respects and admires the desire of NHL players to represent their countries and compete in a ‘Best on Best’ tournament,” said NHL commissioner Gary Bettman in a statement. “Accordingly, we waited as long as possible to make this decision and checked all available options to enable our players to take part in the 2022 Winter Olympics.
“Given the profound disruption of the NHL’s regular season schedule due to recent events related to COVID – 50 games have already been postponed until December 23 – participation in the Olympics is unfortunately no longer possible.”
The announcement comes after the NHL decided to suspend its Wednesday through Christmas season due to COVID-19 concerns.
The NHL had until January 10 to withdraw from games without being fined. The announcement means that after five games in a row from 1998 to 2014, NHLers will not participate in the Winter Games for the second time in a row.
“Since the CBA was renewed 17 months ago, NHL players have been looking forward to returning to the Winter Olympics with great anticipation,” said Don Fehr, executive director of the NHLPA, in a statement. “Until recently, we seemed to be on a clear path to Beijing.
“Unfortunately, COVID-19 intervened and postponed dozen of games this month alone. No matter how much we wish that this wasn’t the case, we have to use the Olympic time to postpone these games. ”
The NHL, NHLPA and the International Ice Hockey Federation have reached an agreement to send players to the September Games. The deal, however, has always been contingent on the role the pandemic played in the NHL season, which – after a week of rising cases and postponements – became too much of a disruption for the league.
Now that the Olympic decision is behind it, the NHL will focus on rescheduling the games that have been postponed in recent weeks. While some of these games can be played during the three-week hiatus the NHL has provided for the Olympics, other events booked in team arenas will be challenging for planners.