NHL to Participate at 2022 Winter Olympics

According to an article accessed from the NHL app by Nicholas J. Cotsonika, the NHL will be participating in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

The NHL and the NHL Player’s Association came to an agreement with the International Ice Hockey Federation today. This will result in “a break in the 2021-22 NHL regular-season schedule to accommodate the participation of NHL players in the 2022” Olympics.

The break will begin on February 3 and end on February 22, encompassing the Olympics and the All-Star Game (the weekend of the third) at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The end of the break will see the Olympic gold medal game on February 20.

According to Cotsonika, “[i]t will be the first Olympics for NHL players since 2014 in Sochi and the first best-on-best international tournament since the World Cup of Hockey 2016 in Toronto.”

The article said that the agreement between the NHL, NHLPA and IIHF “allows for the possibility of a later decision to withdraw in the event evolving COIVD-19 conditions are deemed by the NHL and NHLPA to render participation by NHL players to be impractical or unsafe.”

Cotsonika quoted NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly as saying: “We understand how passionately NHL players feel about representing and competing for their countries. We are very pleased that we were able to conclude arrangements that will allow then to resume best-on-best competition on the Olympic stage.”

NHLPA general counsel Don Zavelo said that “[r]epresenting their country in the Olympics is important to the players, even in these uncertain times. The players look forward to pulling on their nation’s hockey sweater at the upcoming 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing as they comepete for the gold medal.”

IIHF president Rene Fasel added: “I know I can speak for hockey fans around the world when I say that we absolutely welcome the decision to bring back best-on-best ice hockey to the Olympics. We had many constructive discussions, and a lot of hard work was put into making this happen within the time we set for ourselves, and I want to thank all parties involved for their support and commitment.”

Cotsonika said that NHL players were participants in the Olympics five times between 1998 and 2014. That streak ended at PyeongChang 2018 as the NHL felt at that time “the Olympics [disrupted] the NHL season, particularly when not held in North America.”

Last year, Cotsonika continued, when the NHL and NHLPA extended their collective bargaining agreement through the 2025-26 season, the sides committed to going to the Olympics if an agreement could be banged out with the IIHF.

Of the Olympics with NHL participation, Cotsonika mentioned that the Czech Republic won gold  in 1998 (Nagano), Canada has won in 2002 (Salt Lake City) and 2010 (Vancouver) and Sweden won in 2006 (Torino).

The Olympic tournament, as reported by Cotsonika, will include 12 countries. They will be seeded into three groups and include the top eight IIHF World Ranking teams: Canada, the Russian Olympic Committee, Finland, Sweden, the Czech Republic, the United States, Germany and Switzerland. They will be joined by the teams that recently qualified through IIHF qualifying tournaments: Slovakia, Latvia and Denmark.

In other news, the Devils announced, through their PR team, that the team will participate in the 2021 Prospects Challenge.

The Prospects Challenge will teake place from September 17 to 19 at LECOM Harborcenter in Buffalo.

The participating teams will be the Sabres, the Devils and the Boston Bruins. Tickets are available at Sabres.com/prospects and are $10. There will be COVID guidelines to follow should you make the trip up. If you are unvaccinated, you will need to wear a mask at all times at the Harborcenter. The press release does not hat masks are optional if you are vaccinated.

The Devils prospects will take on Buffalo on Friday, September 17 at 7 PM and Boston on Sunday, September 19 at 1 PM.

Slovakia Defeats Belarus, Advances to Olympics

The Slovaks will come out of Group D to compete in the 2022 Winter Olympic Games after a 2-1 victory over Belarus today in Bratislava.

Slovakia needed just one point to get to Beijing while the Belarusians needed a win in regulation to advance.

Belarus got into some penalty trouble early, setting the tone for the game. Just 1:50 into the contest, Vladislav Kolyachonok was called for hooking, putting the Slovaks on the power play early.

Then, at the 4:05 mark of the first period, Sergei Sapego was called for boarding and received a game misconduct to go along with it, meaning he was lost for the game for Belarus.

Slovakia took advantage on the power play from the boarding call, being served by Alexei Protas. Peter Cehlarik scored from Marek Hrivik to make it 1-0 Slovakia.

From there, a penalty-filled last of the first gave way to the second frame.

And the Belarusians tied it just 1:07 into the new period. Yegor Sharangovich scored unassisted to tie things up at one.

And then it was back to the penalties, as Belarus’ Geoff Platt took a tripping call at 1:20 and Belarus’ Nikita Komarov took a cross-checking minor at 2:04. Then it was the Slovaks’ turn as Tomas Jurco took a cross-checking call on the same paly as Komarov’s cross-check, Christian Jaros was called for a trip at 3:15 and Marko Dano was called for slashing at 11:22. Belarus player Andrei Stas finished off the flurry of penalties at 12:03 when he was called for slashing.

The third period was a lot less hectic but did see Slovakia break the 1-1 tie.

Marian Studenic was called for a trip 2:42 into the new period, but the Slovaks killed that off.

The game winner came off of an unusual, but logical strategy. Belarus pulled goaltender Danny Taylor with 3:20 to go in regulation. At first, this seems weird to do in a 1-1 game, but once you understand that Belarus needed to win in regulation, it made sense. They needed to get the extra attacker on to win the game before time ran out and we headed to overtime or a shootout, a win in either would do Belarus no good.

But with that cage empty, Slovakia had their chance. Libor Hudacek potted one into the empty net to give Slovakia the 2-1 lead. Peter Ceresnak had the lone assist on the goal.

Belarus would continue to keep pulling Taylor as tien ran down, but to no avail. When Stas took a charging penalty with less than a minute to go, that was fatal.

Slovakia won the game and will advance to the Olympics.

Taylor faced a total of 28 shots and was equal to 27 of them, the second goal going into the empty net and not being charged to him. For Slovakia, Branislav Konrad saw 11 shots and got ten of them.

As for Devils in the game, Jaros had the two penalty minutes from the minoir and two total shots on goal. Marian Studenic had two shots on net. For Belarus, Sharangoich had the goal for a point off of two shots on goal.

So that does it on the tournament, Slovakia finishes in first with two wins, six points and a plus-five goal differential. Belarus finishes in second with one win, good for three points, and a plus-two goal differential. Austria, by virtue of a 4-1 victory over Poland, finishes third with one win, three points and a minus-one goal differential. Poland comes in last with one win, three points and a minus-six goal differential.