The NHL and NHLPA have come to an agreement to not participate in this year’s Winter Olympics in Beijing due to COVID-19.
“The National Hockey League respects and admires the desire of NHL Players to represent their countries and participate. 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 in a statement.
“Unfortunately, given the profound disruption to the NHL’s regular-season schedule caused by recent COVID-related events. There have been 50 games already that have been postponed through December 23rd. 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 host NHL Players but current circumstances have made it impossible. In order for us to proceed despite everyone’s best efforts. We look forward to Olympic participation in 2026.”
Both parties have negotiated Olympic participation in 2022 and 2026. After the players didn’t participate in the 2018 Olympics. Both parties believed it was necessary to negotiate in the latest collective bargaining agreement. The NHL had until January 10th to opt out without any financial penalty, according to ESPN.
“We continue to look forward to the participation of the world’s best hockey players from the other elite ice hockey leagues around the world in Beijing,” the IOC said in a statement. “Their performances in Pyeongchang achieved a large international broadcast. The audience demonstrated the exciting, passionate ice hockey that we can expect.’
NHL plans going forward
Many amateur players and professional players outside the NHL are going to fill the rosters for the Olympics. This includes North American minor leagues or possibly overseas players.
“Although we are disappointed to receive this decision by the NHL and NHLPA, we nevertheless fully understand the circumstances that forced this action to be taken,” International Ice Hockey Federation president Luc Tardif said in a statement. “It was a shock to see how COVID-19 affected the NHL schedule almost overnight, and we understand the NHL’s decision is in the best interest of the health and safety of its players.”