Multiple sources told ESPN that the NHL and the NHL Players’ Association had agreed not to compete in the 2022 Winter Olympic men’s hockey competition in Beijing.
After NHL players did not compete in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, the NHL and NHLPA negotiated Olympic participation in 2022 and 2026 into the current collective bargaining agreement. The only stipulation for the February 2022 Beijing Olympics was that the current NHL regular season be “materially damaged” by COVID-19 postponements. As of Dec. 21, the NHL has halted its season and postponed 50 games due to outbreaks on teams, indicating that it had met the threshold.
The NHL has until January 10 to resign from the Olympics without incurring financial penalties, and the NHLPA said it expected a decision on participation to be made before then.
Within the next 24 hours, a formal declaration on opting out of the Games is likely.
The focus now shifts to rescheduling games during the Olympic break, which runs from February 6 to 22. The NHL All-Star Game will take place on February 5th.
According to sources, rescheduling might involve games that have been postponed or games that are slated for later in the season being moved early, but there may be a scarcity of stadium availability during the break. While the NHL requested that arenas not book events during the break in case players would not participate in the Olympics, several venues planned concerts and other events to make up for revenue lost during the outbreak.
It’s expected that there will be some sort of a schedule break. Predators general manager David Poile told ESPN 102.5 The Game in Nashville that he believes a “compromise” on the length of time players will have off will be reached, with games jammed into the final week of the break. He also mentioned the possibility of extending the regular season by a week.
Players who would have competed in the Beijing Games were disappointed and saddened by the projected Olympic decision.
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby remarked, “I’ve been fortunate enough to be part of two [Olympics].” “I definitely feel for the the guys who have missed numerous opportunities. It’s not something where it’s the next year or you push it a couple of months. These are experiences of a lifetime that you don’t get very many of as an athlete .”
On Tuesday, two Winnipeg Jets players who appeared to be on their way to Team USA expressed their disappointment.
“Yeah, that sucks. I think everyone was looking forward to this,” Kyle Connor said. “We made it a big part of our collective bargaining agreement as the players, to bring the Olympics back. Whether it’s about different circumstances about going to China with COVID and everything, I think it would have been a great tournament.”
American goalie Connor Hellebuyck, a probable starter, was concerned about his eligibility for the 2026 Olympics in Italy.
He said, “If the next one’s in four years, I’ll be 32,” he said. “I know I’ll be playing my best hockey, but it’s going to be a different storey .”
The Olympic rosters will now be made up of a mix of amateur and professional players from leagues other than the NHL. This could include lesser levels in North America as well as other professional leagues such as Russia’s KHL. This was the scenario for teams competing in the Pyeongchang Olympics, where Russian Olympic athletes won gold.