NHL Officially Announces No Player Participation at Olympics

The National Hockey League made it official yesterday when they put out a press release announcing that the league will not send its players to participate in the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing, China.

The reason cited by the league was the disruption of the regular season due to postponing of games due to rising COVID illnesses and positive tests affecting teams.

As of yesterday – when the NHL made the statement official, 50 games had been postponed through today (December 23). These include all cross-border games between US- and Canada-based teams through the Christmas break.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in the press release that 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. 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.”

Bettman concluded the statement by saying: “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.”

It is interesting that they will be using the two-week period in February that was supposed to be the Olympic break to make up postponed games. It was obviously there as a fall back for that reason – to serve this purpose should the Olympic deal fall through for whatever reason – but more from a logistical standpoint.

I know that there is a lot of leeway built in, it’s just amazing that teams will be able to have their arenas available to them and television outlets such as ESPN and TNT, neither of which was scheduled to be showing hockey during that time (the Olympic tournament was to be shown on NBC and their family of networks, including streaming service Peacock, as with the rest of the Games), can be called upon to suddenly have to broadcast games nationally.

Again, I know that they there are contingencies and that they are on standby with this stuff, it is just really kind of amazing to me, but I digress.

Anyway, with the NHL not sending players to the Olympics in February, each country must pivot to figure out how to assemble a team for to actually send to play in China.

Teams like the USA and Canada are suddenly at a disadvantage and things become more wide open for a country like Germany. Germany had a good showing at the 2018 Olympics, which also did not feature NHL players.

The ROC becomes the prohibitive gold medal favorite due to Russian players still being available from the KHL. But the North American teams will need to scramble to gather professional players playing overseas along with a sprinkling of lower-level prospects from college, juniors and minor leaguers.

Remember that the 2018 Games featured former Devil Brian Gionta, without a professional contract and very much at the backend of his career, suiting up for Team USA. When you factor in that the 2022 edition of this team will now have even less time to get players than the 2018 team did, well… it should make for some interesting rosters.

But that will be a problem that will be addressed after Christmas. For now, the international hockey schedule has us all looking forward to the 2022 World Junior Championship getting underway on December 26 from Red Deer and Edmonton, Alberta.

We will try to have as much coverage as possible here – bearing in mind that the games are Edmonton time and getting recaps and news up in a timely fashion is always difficult with those later starts.

Until then, have a very merry Christmas and stay safe everyone!

CBC: NHL Players Likely Not to Participate in Beijing Olympics Due to COVID Fears

In the wake of the NHL shutting down a few days earlier than expected before the annual Christmas break due to rising COVID-19 cases, the CBC posted an article today that the NHL and the “National Hockey League Players’ Association have reached an agreement to not sent players to participate in the 2022 Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics in February.”

It is important to note that CBC Sports said in their article that they could not “independently confirm the report.”

The story was initially broken by Chris Johnston of The Toronto Star and Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli as per the article by the CBC staff on CBC.ca.

Johnston reported (and it was reported by the CBC) that “the league and its players made the decision on Tuesday and now must finalize it with the International Olympic Committee.”

The CBC said that “Seravalli reported on Twitter the official announcement could come as early as Tuesday or even later in the week.” The CBC article also noted that the NHL “had until Jan. 10 to opt out of the Olympics without financial penalty.”

The NHL announced yesterday that the 2021-22 season would be shut down early prior to the Christmas break – pausing all activities from December 21 through 25 with ten teams needing to shut down due to COVID outbreaks. Fifty games have been postponed this season already with the Devils missing their two games leading into Christmas at Pittsburgh and against Montreal. A game in November against Ottawa was postponed but has already been made up by the teams.

According to Johnston, the NHL’s decision comes from needing to play the rescheduled games during the three-weeks that would have been set aside for the Olympics beginning on February 4.

The CBC article said that ESPN is reporting that the games played during the February break “could include currently postponed games or even moving up future games as a result of the lack of arena availability during the break, with many booking concerts and other events.”

This will be the second straight Olympic Games that NHL players will not participate in. The league declined to send players to PyeongChang in 2018 due to not wanting to break up the regular season right after the Super Bowl when the NHL had some of the North American sports landscape between only itself and the NBA.

The NHL first sent its players to the tournament at Nagano in 1998.

Originally, the NHL and NHLPA committed to the Beijing Olympics this past September. The agreement with the International Ice Hockey Federation gave the sides the chance “to withdraw if COVID-19 conditions rendered participation “impractical or unsafe.””

And with that, an entire generation of players have likely passed through the NHL that will not really get to represent their countries at the Olympics. When you realize that someone like Connor McDavid never got to play for Canada at the Games, that is just mind blowing. He will be four years older in 2026 and could still get his chance should the NHL participate, but he might not be the tippy-top elite player that he is right now in his prime – though still very good, of course.

Time will tell how things shake down for 2026, but as of now, NHL it seems, will not be playing in the 2022 Olympics. We will keep you updated here on any news pertaining to this situation and will have coverage of the 2022 World Junior Championship from Alberta starting the day after Christmas.